Safe Zone celebrates 20th anniversary
The tragic death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998 sparked a movement at many schools and universities, which resulted in many students taking a stand for the LGBTQ+ community and their rights. One of the many universities involved in this stand was Illinois State University, which made a commitment to improve the campus climate through creation of a Safe Zone program. Safe Zone has been offered at Illinois State since 1999, fulfilling that commitment.
Safe Zone orientation is offered five times a year and is a two-hour session designed to teach students, faculty, and staff about the LGBTQ+ community and provide an opportunity to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ persons on campus. Along with learning the appropriate terminology, participants are involved in activities such as case studies and experimental scenarios.
Towards the end of the session, participants are encouraged to sign an optional member agreement form. By signing the form, participants agree to become an official ally to the LGBTQ+ community and will continue to create a safe space for them not just on campus, but anywhere. Upon signing, participants receive a safe space placard and pin.
The Safe Zone program is coordinated through Diversity Advocacy, a unit of the Dean of Students Office. The sessions are led by graduate assistant Violet Benn, who has been coordinating Safe Zone since 2017. “The main goals of Safe Zone are to teach and support students, faculty, and staff. In our daily work, we are always engaging with people of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Benn.
Learn more about Safe Zone by signing-up for one of the sessions offered each semester. The one remaining session this year is on Friday, May 17.