The Multicultural Center has begun training students and faculty in providing ‘Safe Zones’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual (LGBT) students at Central Oregon Community College and Oregon State University Cascades.
Safe Zones are a designated area in personnel where faculty and students have training in LGBT issues, according to Taran Underdal, advisor to the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College.
“For me, the importance for this is providing awareness and support,” said Underdal. “Attracting LGBT students.”
Safe Zones were enacted in spring 2012 when the Diversity Committee met to determine goals for the year. One of the goals, according to Karen Roth, Director of the Multicultural Department, was enhanced education centered around the LGBT community.
“Our purpose is that LGBT students can have a place to talk about who they are,” said Roth.
Roth believes that it’s important for students to know that where a Safe Zone is indicated, they can speak their minds.
“It might be students who have experienced discrimination,” said Roth. “It could be the first person they might come out to on campus. It might be someone who’s straight and says ‘I have a family member who just came out and I don’t know how to deal with it.’”
In the current school environment, LGBT students don’t always know if their friends would be accepting of their sexual orientation. Many wait a great deal of time before saying anything, according to Roth.
“With Safe Zones,” said Roth, “there’s no guesswork.”
Training students and faculty is important to Roth because it helps COCC appear more accepting.
“It really resonates with the values of our campus to create a safe space for students,” said Roth.
Two six-hour trainings were held on-campus: One for students, and one for faculty. Students who complete the training receive a button for their backpack; faculty receive a placard.
“When LGBT folks are on campus and they see these placards, they know they are accepted for who they are,” said Roth. “Even if they never use them, they know.”