The St. Thomas Allies club’s Breaking the Silence event drew more than a dozen students Friday, April 20, to the Upper East Quad to honor victims of sexuality-based violence.
The event’s name is inspired by the Day of Silence, which started Thursday, April 19, and lasted until 5 p.m. on Friday.
“Breaking the Silence is an event that we (Allies club) kind of just started for the first time,” said senior J.T. Schuweiler, St. Thomas Allies club president. “It’s going to be a type of memorial for those who have died from hate crimes in general that are LGBTQ-oriented.”
Breaking the Silence is a relatively new event to the University of St. Thomas. The event was used as a platform for St. Thomas students, professors, and priests to speak out and share stories of people who have fallen victim to sexuality-driven hate crimes.
“What we (Allies club) are trying to do is bring an awareness to people and let them know that these things (hate crimes) happen, they are not new, and they are happening now,” Schuweiler said. “We want people to realize this and speak up.”
The event also featured the Rev. Erich Rutten, director of Campus Ministry, and the Rev. Steven McMichael leading a prayer honoring the victims of hate crimes.
Due to St. Thomas’ Catholic foundation and stance on homosexuality, some students were surprised that the school would support this event.
“I am in support of speaking out against sexuality-based hate crimes,” junior Spencer Brendel said. “But I don’t understand why a Catholic school would host an event like this when it is so clear that the Catholic Church is against homosexual acts.”
Other students said they were concerned about St. Thomas’ integrity and reputation.
“The fact that the University of St. Thomas is a Catholic community is an essential aspect for students attending the university,” senior Tony Mergens said. “That said, I believe the event taking place on UST’s campus is inconsistent with the religious standards of the university.”
However, Rutten spoke about the event and why the university decided to help support raising awareness about sexuality-based hate crimes.
“I think as a church we feel very strongly that violence and hatred don’t belong anywhere. They are not a part of our tradition,” Rutten said. “We are very happy to support this event and support a call for civility, for respect, for care, for one another.”
Other students feel that St. Thomas should be doing more to help raise awareness on this issue.
“I still think they (St. Thomas) should have done more, not many people know about the cause and were not informed,” freshman Elissandra De Brito said.
With many different views on how the school should be handling events, such as Breaking the Silence, Rutten made the point of the event clear.
“The Catholic Church considers it an absolute sin to harass or do violence to anyone, to disrespect anyone. I just wanted to emphasize that this (hate crimes) is just not acceptable, so that is why we are here tonight,” Rutten said.
Jake Swansson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.