By Maegan Clearwood
Five years ago, members of the athletic department gathered to discuss and educate themselves about the LGBT issues. This semester, the Safe Space Program is reopening itself to any student who wants to become an ally and supporter of the LGBT community.
“The purpose of the Safe Space Program is to raise awareness about the LGBT community and issues in college campuses,” said Darnell Parker, Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “Hopefully it will be an opportunity to help build an inclusive environment here at Washington College.”
Director for the Office of Student Development Beth Anne Langrell and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm introduced the WC community to the safe space program to encourage students to discuss LGBT-related issues.
“It educates them on the LGBT program, and how to bust meant to change people’s beliefs, but it’s an opportunity to help people learn about different cultures.”
At the end of the session, each student will receive a sticker, representing his or her role as an LGBT ally. He or she can display the sticker on any personal property, and it serves as “a visible presence that we are supportive of LBGT concerns and that the person can be an ally,” said Parker.
In creating this safe environment, WC addresses a challenging issue.
“We could be a little bit more inclusive, and like any college campus, we need work,” Parker said. “I talk to colleagues all the time, and LGBT issues are on the top of our to-do list. How do we keep our community safe and help [the LGBT community] feel welcome on campuses across the country?”
The two-hour training program is voluntary and open to any interested student. Phuture Trustee, treasurer of EROS, especially encourages non-LGBT students to attend the sessions.
“I think that all students should come to the event because at Washington College, as far as extracurriculars are concerned, they are not as diverse as opposed to other schools,” Trustee said. “They have events, and it’s for certain individuals, like the Greeks or SEB. Then you have the minority clubs who have a certain number of members in the club. [Non-LGBT] students can get a little understanding of the LGBT community as a whole and how they can play a part in others’ lives.”
To further increase LGBT awareness on campus, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Assistant Professor for the Department of curriculum and instruction at Iowa State University, will be speaking about LGBT issues on campus later this month.
“His approach to talking to people is to not make people feel threatened,” Parker said. “It’s not only hurting LGBT population, but heterosexuals as well. There are pieces of every individual that can add to our society, but because we constantly discriminate against individuals because of sex orientation, we’re missing out on something. If you don’t give them a chance, you miss an opportunity to learn from them.”
The Safe Space Program sessions will be held on Sept. 23 and 30 from 11:30 a.m.to 1:30 p.m., and on Oct. 7 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. They are in the Sophie Kerr room in the Miller Library. Interested students can email Darnell Parker at email@example.com.