By Gianna DiPasquale
“I like girls. No, I like boys. Do I like girls and boys? Am I attracted to anyone at all?” Although these thoughts often go unheard, these are questions that many may ask themselves in their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Maybe you aren’t confused, but you feel alone and that no one understands how you feel or stands with your sexualtiy. This is where the lonesome feeling ends.
“Safe Zone” is a program that for the past 5 years here at Springfield College has been growing and working on ways to show that there is support here in our campus community for everyone, especially people of the LGBTQ community. Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, Associate Professor of psychology and Director of the undergraduate psychology program started up the Safe Zone program here in 2012.
Safe Zone is a program designed to create a network of visible allies to people who identify as part of the diverse LGBTQ community. Here at Springfield College, Safe Zone helps to create a more accepting, affirming, supportive, inclusive, and equal environment for LGBTQ individuals through educational training sessions for faculty members, staff members, and students.
“It’s really about letting the campus community know that we are supportive of the students who hold these identities, and we want to make sure that they feel so on the campus,” says Morgan. “To me it’s important for students and prospective students to know that the program exists.”
Across the country, high schools, middle schools, and universities have implemented the Safe Zone program and have been working to let students who may feel discriminated against know that the program exists and is working counteract the discrimination they experience. Visual cues such as signs on faculty doors or pins on students’ backpacks, intend to display that these people are supportive of them and may have some knowledge, background, or understanding of some issues they may be going through.
Springfield College offers a couple different types of workshops and do most of them for students. A lot of the student leaders on this campus have gone through these workshops. Most recently they have been held for the residence life staff and also with the pre-camp and NSO leaders, student organization club leaders, and for the peer health educators. In the past, there have also been workshops open to all students and members on campus.
Sophomore Sam Cox completed Safe Zone training as part of her training as an NSO leader. “When people see the pin on my backpack I’m sure people have thought like, ‘oh I appreciate that that person is accepting.’” says Cox. “There are such negative terms that people in the LGBTQ community take offense to but won’t say anything. I feel like the more people who are educated about it, the more people recognize when people make rude comments.”
Junior Bri Kerr, a Pre-camp leader, also went through Safe Zone training and describes it as an eye opening experience. In these workshops the student leaders learned about the positive and negative language in the community and creating an open, anti-discriminatory atmosphere.
Karr said, “It definitely increased my empathy, knowledge, and awareness. I had never even heard of some of these things and then to be informed of what they are and what some people go through was shocking. It’s just good to know about these things.”
Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement, Dr. Calvin Hill, encompasses everything the Division promotes: diversity among an inclusive campus culture which also provides the community with equal access to educational opportunities especially for underrepresented populations such as the LGBTQ population.
Although individually we differ in where we find comfort and feel accepted, there are services and locations on campus that are offered to assist students in dealing with stressors or contribute to their overall well being at school. The Academic Success Center, Learning Support Services, and Counseling Center are all places that truly wish to provide students with resources to find support or administer support themselves.