The Gender and Sexuality Center has implemented a program called Safe Zone, which allows students of the LGBTQ community to identify who their allies are on campus and where they can find them. This program was created to help students find others who support their values and concerns.
The Safe Zone program is staffed with certified members who are trained to understand the complexities of the LGBTQ community and how to support students of that community while providing a welcoming atmosphere.
“We can’t really tell, for people who identify as LGBTQ, who actually is an ally or not,” said Interim Director Dr. Gene Kelly, who has experience with the creation and management of Safe Zone programs at other universities such as West Chester and Lafayette.
“If you’re talking about issues of race or if you’re talking about the issue of gender, you can typically figure out who your ally is when you walk into a space, but for the LGBTQ community, we cannot always identify who is an ally or not.”
Essentially, Dr. Kelly expressed that it’s not always easy for students on campus to identify who other LGBTQ members are, so with the introduction of Safe Zones, students will have places they know they can find like-minded individuals and support.
There are over 50 certified Safe Zone members, with the majority being faculty and staff, but anyone affiliated with the school can become certified, according to Kelly.
Spread throughout campus, Safe Zones are in many offices or classrooms of certified members, but currently, they are unidentified because the program is new and it does not yet have placards to identify members.
Dr. Kelly is designing a placard that will be placed outside the offices of faculty, staff and student organizations of Safe Zone members that will help students identify where Safe Zones are located.
For example, if the Commuter Council wants their organization’s members to become Safe Zone certified, they could contact the Gender and Sexuality Center to organize a group training session.
After the training, each member and the organization will receive a placard that they can display outside the Commuter Lounge so that students will know the lounge is a Safe Zone.
“We want to make sure allies are visible on campus for members of the LGBTQ community,” said Sexuality Programs Assistant Eli Johnson.
Although the Safe Zone program is a new concept on campus, Johnson, who is a junior, states he felt accepted when he first came to ESU as a freshman. The Gender and Sexuality Center gave Johnson a feeling of acceptance in a diversified college environment.
“A lot of times, students are afraid to express themselves, and when they speak to the wrong person, that’s when the harm comes in,” said Johnson.
With the introduction of the Safe Zone program, students in the LGBTQ community no longer have to take risks or assume whether someone is an ally or not.
Anyone can become a certified Safe Zone member.
If anyone is interested, the Gender and Sexuality Center’s webpage has a simple prescreening tool that allows faculty, staff or students to become certified.
The prescreening has 10 questions. Nine of the questions must be answered correctly to become certified.
Upon successful completion, Dr. Kelly will contact the applicant, who will then receive a placard that will represent their certification and Safe Zone location.
Although, if one fails the prescreening, they must attend training in person.
The Safe Zone program is an addition to an array of resources offered by the Gender and Sexuality Center, and it’s one that many members of the LGBTQ community might find helpful.
To become a certified Safe Zone member or to access center’s resources and information, visit their webpage at www.esu.edu/gender_sexuality_center/
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