Safe Zone training educates LGBTQ+ allies

The campus community at Geneseo has taken action to become more accepting for people of all sexualities by implementing enhanced Safe Zone training over the past year. A national program, Safe Zone advocates for social equality regardless of sexual orientation across college campuses. The project aims to introduce people to basic terms behind LGBTQ-plus identities, as well as well as to give people positive ally strategies.

“This is a great program for a place like Geneseo,” associate professor of English and facilitator of the Safe Zone program Alice Rutkowski. “People want to help and do the right thing, but are maybe worried that they will not say the right words.”

Safe Zone coordinator Alexandra Carlo originally ran the program alone as a Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development workshop until Rutkowski entered the picture, starting a committee called the LGBT Working Group alongside residence director of Onondaga Hall Ray FeDora.

This committee has actively been expanding Safe Zone training across Geneseo’s campus while also looking for areas of improvement.

Expanding Safe Zone revolves around providing available training for those who request it. Training sessions are provided for both faculty departments and student groups.

A typical workshop lasts approximately two to three hours and is divided into two parts. Trainers initially introduce vocabulary to participants, using interactive techniques to encourage practice of these terms. The second half of the session answers the question of what students can do to make Geneseo a more welcoming environment and how to intervene in situations if necessary.

Many faculty members have already been trained to give workshops under Safe Zone, including assistant cross country and track and field coach Dan Moore and University Police Lieutenant Scott Ewanow and Officer Andrew Phelps. The number of divisions with trainees has been steadily increasing.

“Each faculty member or student has undergone eight hours of training,” Rutkowski said. “These means we now have a community of experts prepared to give workshops to those who request them.”

The Geneseo Pride Alliance has attended a workshop catered by Safe Zone, as well as a student off-campus co-op.

Rutkowski and her committee plan to continue to advertise the importance of the project to students and faculty, encouraging anyone interested to schedule their own session.

“Our main goal is to ensure that any time someone says diversity on this campus, they are thinking about [LGBTQ-plus] students in that mix,” Rutkowski said. “This is a human rights issue. We are hoping that we can say to students, prospective students and parents that Geneseo is a safe place to live and to learn.”