What is a Safe Zone?
Safe Zone programs or trainings exist in various forms across the United States in colleges, universities, high schools, and other types of organizations. While the design of each program may vary, the overall purpose is to eliminate homophobia, heterosexism, and discrimination in one’s community. Historically, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) students, staff, and faculty have felt unsafe on college campuses. The Safe Zone program creates visible networks of support for LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty who are seeking a “safe space” or person to share in confidence about issues, fears, questions, and/or other concerns. Simultaneously, the visibility of LGBTQ resources encourages folks who do not identify as LGBTQ to ask questions in order to better understand sexuality and gender while allowing Safe Zones members to assist in working toward the elimination of myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes while honoring the diversity of all students.
Safe Zones identify “LGBTQ friendly” faculty and staff and students to provide support and resources. It has been implemented at many colleges and universities across the United States that helps to accomplish the following goals:
- Alleviate concerns regarding issues related to diversity in an ever-changing society
- To help faculty be more aware of and sensitive to the diversity of issues facing students today, specifically related to sexuality and gender
- Open channels of communication between faculty, students, and staff
- To create an environment free of oppression, prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry and encouraging of open-dialogue
- To provide safe spaces on campus that are highly visible and easily identifiable to the community as an area where support and understanding is the key and where bigotry and discrimination are not tolerated
- To make the campus a safer and freer environment for all members of the college community regardless of gender or sexuality
How is this different from a Gator Safe Zone?
Gator Safe Zone exists for each of the purposes described above. Overall, Gator Safe Zone can be thought of as less of a “script” or “How to” interact with LGBTQ identified individuals and more of a mechanism to encourage intentional ongoing dialogue on the Allegheny campus about gender and sexuality between all community members regardless of how each person individually self-identifies.
Participants of Gator Safe Zone can choose to become a member of Gator Safe Zone after completing track one and track two of the Gator Safe Zone Program. Gator Safe Zone Members are identified by displaying a Gator Safe Zone card at their worksite or on-campus living space, indicating that the individual has participated in 6 hours of intentional and facilitated knowledge-sharing, discussion, and ally skill-building around LGBTQ issues, experiences, and identities. This is not to say that only people in Safe Zone can support LGBTQ individuals at Allegheny. It simply helps others identify individuals who:
(1) have received some training in LGBTQ issues
(2) strive to reduce homophobia and heterosexism on a personal and professional level
(3) are comfortable with LGBTQ individuals approaching them to talk about LGBTQ related issues
(4) have made a commitment to providing support and referrals to LGBTQ individuals while respecting the privacy of the individuals who contact them.
For additional information about the Allegheny College Gator Safe Zone Program, please contact Hope Sims-Medley, CIASS office coordinator.