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Faculty and Staff Pledge to Make Rollins a SafeZone

While many usually prepare to get home as soon as possible on a Friday afternoon in preparation for the weekend, a little over 30 faculty and staff members decided to start their weekend by becoming level-one SafeZone allies for the LGBTIQQPAA (lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, pansexual, asexual and ally) community at Rollins and beyond.

Dr. Gregory Cavenaugh, visiting assistant professor of communication, and Nadine Clarke, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), served as the instructors of the five-hour long training session with help from Mahjabeen Rafiuddin, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs; Rebecca Robbins, graduate assistant to the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and Louisa Gibbs ’11.

They spent much time preparing the training session so that participants would take the most away from the session. To commence the training, the instructors began by laying down some of the following ground rules: to respect each other’s thoughts and opinions, to be honest, and to feel safe enough to speak one’s mind.

Cavenaugh shared his thoughts on how well the training went. “What I was most moved by during the training session was the honest vulnerability displayed by many of the attendees. For such a large group (30+), I would not have expected the level of self-disclosure, introspection and engagement that we saw on Friday. I truly believe that this group will be strong allies in the future,” he said.

In fact, participants filled out permission slips outlining that they consent to being imperfect and unclear about the LGBT community. The permission slips allowed participants to be open, honest and ready to learn. The training involved a section which broke down the “alphabet soup” for participants to have a much more solid understanding of terms ranging from internalized homophobia to coming out.

Many of these terms not only forced people to challenge their conception of the LGBT community, but also the construction of gender in everyday life. Defining the almost indefinable challenged the participants to truly open their minds to not only this community, but also the world.

The training then transitioned into a time for each person to reflect on times in their lives when they had felt different, lonely, or hurt. That then enables each person to relate to how LGBT students on our campus feel on a daily basis, which subsequently motivated them to become strong allies to this community and the entire campus.

Michele Meyer, director of the Office of Community Engagement, had this to say about the SafeZone training: “SafeZone training was incredible. I learned new ideas and ways to better support students and colleagues on campus. I enjoyed making new friends through the training and look forward to empowering others on campus to make Rollins a more inclusive community.”

Look out for future faculty, staff and student SafeZone training opportunities, because they truly open your eyes to the world and give you the tools to serve your community on a much deeper level.

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