Gannon University’s LIFE (Love Is For Everyone) group has organized events for Day of Silence Week that are geared toward expanding the group’s visibility on campus as well as spreading awareness of certain issues that affect the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
Matt Kridel, a junior psychology major and LIFE’s president, said that the group’s mission will always be the same – to spread the word that love is for everyone.
“Specifically this year, we’re trying to become better known on campus and to have a greater impact on people,” Kridel said. “And I think we’ve done that.”
Lia Koziell, a senior computer engineering major and vice president of LIFE, added that the group’s mission is to provide a safe environment where people can feel comfortable with themselves.
She also said that the feelings of community have helped to not only create a safe space, but to create friendships, as well.
“Our last meeting, for example, we met briefly by the piano the other day to discuss LIFE week, and someone mentioned they were hungry,” she said. “We all ended up at the Mexican place on State Street and had lunch together.”
Tuesday, LIFE set up a lecture/training led by LeAnn Romitti from Persad – a LGBT organization – on how to recognize suicidal thoughts and to help a person who is considering suicide.
A panel of students, professors and staff will be taking questions on sexuality, gender, bullying, LIFE, development and faith in Zurn 101 from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. Wednesday. Both advisers of the LIFE group, Barbara Townsend, a professor in the psychology department, and Deacon Steve Washek, director of Campus Ministry, will be joining the discussion.
Washek said that LIFE understands what it is to be harassed or bullied for being different.
“Our Catholic identity calls each and every one of us to treat people with dignity and respect,” Washek said. “I believe that is what this group is trying to do.”
Koziell said that she had concerns about being accepted prior to coming to Gannon, but that they have since been assuaged.
“There are things you end up worrying about as a queer student,” she said. “My biggest fear coming in freshman year was that I would end up with a homophobic roommate. But everyone at Gannon has been pretty awesome.”
An informational session on the Day of Silence will be held in Zurn 104 from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. Thursday. Students will be able to learn more about Day of Silence and also ask any questions concerning this event.
Friday is Day of Silence and it is an all-day affair in which participants take a temporary vow of silence in order to draw awareness to the negative implications of bullying.
“All of Gannon’s community is encouraged to wear blue and either takes a vow of silence for as long as they’d like or use their voice to educate others about LGBT bullying,” Kridel said.
There will be a party at the Knight Club from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. Saturday where LIFE will be releasing balloons as a part of a statewide event. They will also be taking pictures of students holding a paper that says “I am…”
Christina Zappa, a sophomore sport and exercise science major, said when she joined LIFE she felt a sense of acceptance, support and love from everyone in the group.
“I believe there is a misconception that LIFE must only be for LGBT students, but in fact, about half of the individuals who show up regularly to our meetings — including myself — are straight men or women,” Zappa said.
At 11 a.m. Sunday, a solidarity mass will be held at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel.
We do Day of Silence Week to educate students about the LGBT community and to bring attention to LIFE’s presence on campus, Kridel said.
“We’re primarily focused on supporting LGBT students, but we hope that people will support everyone on campus,” Kridel said. “Regardless of race, religion, major, sexuality, gender and age.”
LIFE wants those participating in Day of Silence to reflect on the difficulties of being silent and what it’s like for those who feel they don’t have a voice due to bullying or having to remain closeted about their sexuality and gender identity, Kridel said.
Zappa said she will be participating in as many events during Day of Silence week as her schedule will allow her.
“Friday I will be participating in Day of Silence by wearing blue and being silent for as long of a period as possible,” Zappa said. “Most importantly I will be spreading the word about what LIFE is trying to do in order to stop bullying of anyone and everyone.”
“All clubs across campus have been contacted and we hope to see a large diversity of students at our events,” Kridel said. “Anyone who supports the idea that love is for everyone is a member of LIFE, no matter their sexual or gender orientation.”