Creating a Safe Space

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New training program embraced by faculty, staff

In its continuing efforts to foster a community of acceptance and respect, Davidson this year launched a Safe Space program to educate the college community about the unique challenges and experiences lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals encounter both on campus and in the greater community. Almost 200 students, faculty and staff members completed Safe Space training during the inaugural year, a turnout that exceeded expectations.

“The response was incredible,” Assistant Dean of Students Becca Taylor ’06 said. “As soon as we posted the first dates for training, we had all of the classes filled and a waiting list.”

Taylor worked to launch the Safe Space program in collaboration with staff members in the Residence Life, Multicultural Affairs, Student Health and Human Resources offices. The goals of the program are twofold: first, to educate students, faculty and staff members about the LGBTQ community; and second, to teach them how to apply that information. Training includes effective ways to interrupt homophobic or other prejudicial behavior; how to become and remain informed allies; and learning about the LGBTQ resources available both on campus and in the larger community.

In addition to data and historical information, “the training provides more nuanced information about what the experience is like for LGBTQ individuals on campus, and that is powerful,” said Associate Dean of Students Kathy Bray. In fact, in a survey taken after the training, a significant majority of participants—82 percent—said they found the panel discussion with existing students and staff members the most powerful/useful portion of the training.

Upon completion of the Safe Space training, participants receive placards they may hang on their door or in their offices, indicating that they are informed allies for the LGBTQ community.

Additionally, this year Davidson was added to the national LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index, following intensive review of the college’s policies and procedures surrounding LGBTQ recruitment and retention, counseling and health, campus safety, housing and residence life, student life, academic life, support and institutional commitment, and policy inclusion. Inclusion in the index is an important, outward symbol to the greater community—including prospective students—of Davidson’s support for LGBTQ individuals, Taylor said.

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