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VSU provides a safe space

In the last year, LGBTQ students have experienced an increase in bullying and violence as well as self-inflicted harm, but Valdosta State University will offer its first-ever “Safe Space” seminar, aimed at stopping this.

The three-hour program will take place on Tuesday, April 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom A and will train faculty, staff and students how to navigate around Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ)  issues, such as bullying, hazing, coming out and other topics.

The seminar consists of three parts—the first will cover the basics of LGBTQ culture and define key terms used by the community, as well as provide understanding about who these students are and what societal norms they face.

The second part includes an open panel discussion about on and off campus resources available for students and those who are trying to help fellow students.

The third portion will be a practice session on handling issues that LGBTQ students may have.

Even though VSU has not seen as much abuse as other universities, it is important to bring awareness to these issues.

“The program will help to get rid of the misunderstanding many have of being part of the LGBTQ community,” said Chad Freeman, who is a student assistant at the Office of Social Equity. “We want students to feel safe, accepted and wanted.”

As a result of the program, students will feel accepted on campus and find comfort in knowing that there is someone they can talk to.

“Like many issues of diversity, issues in and about the LGBTQ community can be sensitive and some individuals may find it difficult to ask questions or broach topics for discussion,” Maggie Viverette, director of the Office of Social Equity, said.   “The Safe Space training will provide participants an opportunity to discuss issues and ask questions in a receptive environment.”

The program presents a united front for VSU and will help prevent bullying and self-inflicted pain that some LGBTQ students go through.

“I think it will change the climate of how LGBTQ students on campus are treated, especially with bullying,” Freeman said. “The program will serve as a source of prevention.”

The office has been working on the program for the past two years; Freeman proposed the program in January 2010 along with Tyler Martin, a current graduate student.

The two brought on advisory directors Dr. Tracy Woodard-Meyers, director of Women and Gender Studies; Maggie Viverette, director of the Office of Social Equity; and Eric Archer, director of Curriculum, Leadership and Technology.

Martin helped Freeman build the framework for the program and VSU’s Gay Straight Alliance is also working on the program, which will be hosted by the Dean of Students.

“Individuals who complete the safe space training can serve as allies to student and faculty members of the LGBTQ community,” Viverette said.

At the end of training, each participant will receive a Safe Space program sticker which is a visible indication that the participant can help LGBTQ students.
“My dream is that one day you can walk down a hallway and every door will have a sticker,” Freeman said.
Only the first 150 people to register can be certified. Those who are interested in participating can register online at www.valdosta.edu/finadmin/training/.
There is also a LGBTQ resource center in the Office of Social Equity that has magazines, books, DVDs, guides, and more.

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