The Safe Zone training is a competency and awareness workshop helping individuals to better under the lesbian gay bisexual transgender and queer community.
As the number of individuals who become educated during the safe zone sessions grows, the campus is sprinkled with more students, faculty, and staff members who are aware of the LGBTQ community and their issues.
The program works to create an open authentic dialogue that allows everyone to talk about issues the LGBTQ community faces, which includes anything that may exclude or create a barrier towards specific minorities.
“It is a growing community of support and a greater ally base for the LGBTQ minority,” said Alex Purdy, LGBTQ student assistant and junior psychology student.
Every semester there is a campus-wide Safe Zone program. This semester 30 students were in attendance for the 90 minute session on Feb. 20. The group is exposed to and discusses LGBTQ terminology, cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, and cultural competency.
“Given the terrible weather that day, I was happy to see 30 participants show up,” Purdy said.
“This knowledge creates a better dialogue about minority groups on campus. By dialogue I mean that people can openly discuss things that prevent them from reaching their full potential due to a fear of rejection or the ability to reach out for support and resources.”
Julie Schneider, academic advisor in the student academic advising center, helped create and is a member of the faculty/staff gay straight alliance. The FSGSA is a program similar to Safe Zone, but is geared towards faculty and staff.
“In these 90 minute FSGSA workshops, we discuss terminology and go over case studies with scenarios that have happened on other campuses. Faculty and staff need to understand the issues and make the atmosphere comfortable for students,” Schneider said.
Schneider confesses people in her generation have not had a lot of interaction or exposure to the LGBTQ community and their issues. She knows that it is important to become educated.
All professors who have attended a workshop are given what is commonly referred to as a door dec, or a Safe Zone card, which they display on their office doors or windows. These decorations are an indicator that signifies an open environment to anyone of any orientation.
“They [the door decs] symbolize a much more comfortable feel. It shows that the faculty or staff member has reached out and tried to get educated about people like me,” Purdy said, identifying as queer.
Paul Kratwell, the coordinator of writing programs in the Tutoring-Learning Center, has always encouraged his student employees to be trained. Although, for the past two semesters he has started incorporating Safe Zone into the practicum class for writing consultants so that 100% of the staff receives the training.
“I think in order to learn, people first need to feel safe. When students know they are in a place where they can express themselves, they can concentrate on intellectual growth,” Kratwell said.
He believes the TLC has a reputation for being a collaborative place of learning because of the staff’s interest in others.
“As a result of the connections between staff, learners and student employees, we can generate a greater discussion which leads to richer ways of thinking,” Kratwell said.
During the 2013-2014 academic school year, near 350 people have been safe zoned.
“Our goal is to Safe Zone 500 people by the end of the year, it is important for people to know that there is a community of support and a wide ally base. The more people who are involved, the more inclusive our campus can become,” Purdy said.
The success of Safe Zone and spreading campus awareness about minority groups starts with getting more people involved. Purdy wants to promote the workshop and states if an organization, hall, or department (campus related or not) would like to schedule a Safe Zone Workshop they can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Safe Zone and the LGBTQ community, contact Alex Purdy or Alyssa Oltmanns, the coordinator of gender and sexuality outreach services.