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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Campus should become a safe zone

By Cameron Hodgkin

Discrimination pervades many facets of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals on campus, making it difficult for many of them to feel safe and work effectively.

Many students, staff and faculty who identify as LGBTQ feel oppressed by their surroundings. Places or zones in which LGBTQ people can feel safe are important tools for ending discrimination. Students, staff and faculty should be encouraged to interact with the various resources and departments on campus without feeling discriminated against. The first goal of the Safe Zone Training is to create as many of these safe zones on campus as possible and ideally to make the entire campus a safe place.

Safe Zones on campus can be identified by a pink sign with an upside-down triangle inside a circle, above the words “SAFE ZONE.” Participants in the Safe Zone program hang these signs for students, staff and faculty, designating that area as a safe zone for the LGBTQ community. In some cases, entire departments are Safe Zone trained, requiring all new staff and faculty to go through the training.

Beyond simply hanging these signs, participants go through three hours of training aimed to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues and maintain visibility of the LGBTQ community. More importantly, Safe Zone training is an excellent way to create alliances on campus and foster ally building. One way this is achieved is through the information the training provides. The trainers first run through a list of terms that often go undefined and then give an overview of the history of the LGBTQ movement.

Far from trying to change people’s beliefs, the Safe Zone program simply provides an opportunity for people to educate themselves on LGBTQ issues as well as answer many questions people might have.

One part of the training allows people to write down stereotypes about LGBTQ individuals and then to be asked, as a group, where those stereotypes come from and if, to any extent, any of them are true. Many misconceptions of the LGBTQ community are addressed and people are encouraged to challenge the stereotypes they hold. However, people are not asked to compromise any beliefs they have. All respectful opinions, thoughts and questions are welcomed without judgment or contention. This section of the training is particularly effective, considering that many oppressive beliefs come simply from misunderstanding.

The last, and possibly most important, section of the training is the ally-building section. This part of the training suggests effective ways to be an ally as well as strategies for fighting against discrimination. Students, staff, faculty and university departments are encouraged to be Safe Zone trained. By providing the tools necessary to be an ally, the Safe Zone trainings create an environment of inclusion as well as a safe place for LGBTQ people on campus.

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Editor’s Note8212;Cameron Hodgkin is Safe Zone Coordinator for the U’s LGBT Resource Center.

Cameron Hodgkin

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