Rollins Faculty Trains to be SafeZone Allies

October 15, 2009

SafezoneWelcome to SafeZone training. The first rule of this training is: respect others. The second rule of SafeZone training is: everything is confidential. The third rule is…

Members of the faculty crowded into a meeting room on October 9. They ate sandwiches, potato salad, and a few nibbled on a gooey chocolate fudge brownie. And though they laughed and joked with each other over lunch, they all were there for one serious mission: to become an Ally and create a safe place for the lesbian, gay bisexual transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community at Rollins.

The faculty members were allowed to create their own ground rules after rule number two. They spoke up and added rules like, “be open and honest,” “ask questions,” and “feel free to laugh.”

“We have to acknowledge the LGBTQ community as a part of our community,” said Mahjabeen Rafiuddin, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which hosted the training. “While there are positive experiences here at Rollins, students still face problems. This is how we create allies to love and support them.”

The training was not meant to challenge values, but many perceptions of the LGBTQ community changed in interactive exercises and discussions. The goals of the training were to develope a deeper awareness of personal ideas, stereotypes, and assumptions related to the LGBTQ community and increase the comfort level in addressing LGBTQ issues such as coming out and heterosexism/homophobia. The trainers, Professor of communications Greg Cavenaugh, Nadine Clark from Counseling and Psychological Services, and Professor of Education Scott Hewitt, also taught about the LGBTQ services available on campus and hoped to develop a network of people on campus to support the LGBTQ students on campus.

Being a SafeZone Ally is not the only way to be involved in the LGBTQ community. This past week Rollins also took part in Orlando’s Come Out with Pride march and National Coming Out Day. On campus there is also a student organization called Spectrum that raises awareness about LGBTQ issues and promotes understanding—and anyone can be a part of it.

Nearly all faculty members who attended came to learn more, spread awareness, and be a SafeZone for their students.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs posted banners in all first-year residence halls before school started to raise awareness about the resources available to LGBTQ students. “We we’re not sure how they’d respond,” said Rafiuddin. “But the first years have been very cooperative and understanding.”

There will be another SafeZone Ally training session in the spring for any students interesting in making a more accommodating community.

-Mary Neville (Class of 2013)

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