Last Friday, junior Brandon Malde-Zoradi sat in the middle of Martin Square with a piece of duct tape across his mouth. From 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Malde-Zoradi kept his vow of silence. But duct tape wouldn’t keep him from speaking out.
“I am participating in the Day of Silence because it brings up the issue of bullying, rather than sexuality itself,” Malde-Zoradi, the co-leader of Haven wrote on a notepad. “I have personally been the victim of bullying because of the way I looked, talked and acted since seventh grade… It has influenced the way I see the world.”
Recognized on SPU’s campus for the last eight years, the National Day of Silence is an event during which students choose not to speak in order to better understand the forced silence that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] students feel on a daily basis.
Day of Silence has been met with some opposition from administration in the past. This year, there was virtually none.
Roughly 20 students participated in the event, which was sponsored by Haven, an SPU club devoted to the discussion of LGBT issues and awareness on campus. Junior Adam Hutchinson, the other co-leader of Haven, said that the event is important to have on campus because it forces students and administration to recognize and deal with LGBT issues.
“SPU is definitely good at trying to deal with issues such as sexism, racism and human trafficking,” Hutchinson said. “But I do think LGBT issues tend to get overshadowed a lot.”
Hutchinson has participated in the event for the past three years.
“There’s always students, staff, faculty and other people coming up to us with thumbs up, smiling,” Hutchinson said. “It’s overwhelming and heartwarming to see.”
Throughout the day, other students filtered in and out of participation in the event. Junior Natalie Rose McMurray wrote that she has experienced bullying throughout high school and believes that the SPU student body isn’t always aware of how their words affect others on campus.
“I believe that the SPU student body is not always aware of how their words can affect people on campus,” McMurray wrote. “I hope to get them thinking.”
Freshman Caleb Thomas said that he struggled through a great deal of bullying throughout junior high and high school.
“I keep silent in remembrance of that fight and others out there going through that struggle right now,” Thomas wrote.
The day ended in a foot-washing ceremony in Weter 201 with Haven Faculty Adviser Kevin Neuhouser. Neuhouser thanked the students for their participation and time spent sitting in Martin Square.
“It became a sacred place, a rejection of persecution,” Neuhouser said. “Thank you for having the ability to have your silence speak.”