Symposium of silence slated

The LGBT community of Missouri Southern will celebrate the Day of Silence at 10:30 a.m. today in front of Hearnes Hall.

The Day of Silence was started in 1996 by some high school students and has grown into a nationwide movement.

“High school and university students volunteer not to speak for part of the day or all of the day, to represent the silence that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel is forced upon them in the sense that they don’t feel free to be honest about their sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Ivy Love, senior French and Spanish major.

Students at the University have been holding weekly meetings at Hearnes Hall to protest the current nondiscrimination policy’s exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity every Thursday.  This week’s protest has been moved to Friday to correlate with the national event. People in the Joplin community have shown up to the protests and students from Pittsburg State University, Missouri State University and Missouri Western, among other colleges, will attend.

“I have spoken with people who I didn’t know and who I have met at the demonstrations and people are coming from the community who have no affiliation with Southern but cared deeply about the issue and I think that that speaks to how relevant the issue really is,” Love said. “We want to make a clear statement, especially here at Missouri Southern, that we want to see to it that LGBT members on our campus do feel free and safe and open to be honest about who they are and about their own sexual orientation. 

“We hope that we will be visible on campus and that people will take note that the imposed silence is a big issue and that we want to take a stand against it.”

The Day of Silence protest will be followed by a symposium at 2 p.m. in Taylor Auditorium, which will present the safe guide, which was constructed by Love and Natalie Bruce, adviser of ACTS.

“What it is essentially is for staff and faculty to understand how to create a welcoming and safe space,” said Hillary Fogerty, assistant professor of English and Philosophy.

Fogerty said stickers will be provided for any teacher who wants to promote their offices as “Safe Zones,” as well as copies of the safe guide.

“We’ll be asking faculty if they want that guide to show them how to speak to people in compassionate ways, how to recommend students for counseling if they need it and how to behaviorally deal with changing discrimination and harassment on campus,” Fogerty said.

There will also be stories read written by Missouri Southern students and alumni. Faculty and students will be reading the stories anonymously to protect those who are closeted but still give them a voice. At four, a series of one-act plays will be performed for about an hour and discussion about “breaking the silence” will occur afterward. Anyone is welcome to attend.