‘People Don’t Have to Live in Isolation’
By the students of Journalism I/ for SullReal
LOCH SHELDRAKE, Feb. 15, 2012 – Sullivan County Community College now offers an opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students to discuss their concerns with a trained teacher or counselor. Safe Zones are designated areas where participating faculty and staff members may be found, and are identified by special stickers bearing the official logo. The program has been in effect since the first day of the Spring 2012 semester.
James Goldfarb, the Director of Student Life at SUNY Sullivan, says that the Safe Zone is meant to encourage and support students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to express their issues. The Safe Zone faculty was carefully chosen and will receive additional, specialized training. “We tended to pick people who have good skills in these areas,” he said.
The idea of a Safe Zone originated at North Dakota State University. The NDSU Safe Zone website states that “anyone displaying the Safe Zone symbol has committed to being an understanding, supportive and trustworthy ally for LGBTQ members of our campus community.” In addition, the program “educates people about sexual orientation and gender identity issues, creates a visible network of allies to provide support to the NDSU lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) community, and provides accurate information about sexual orientation/gender identity issues and resources within the community.” According to Goldfarb, Sullivan will strive to achieve similar results, ensuring that the program’s staff can be counted upon to provide accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. It is important that the teachers treat the students with respect and kindness during their sessions, he said.
When asked about the reason behind starting the program, Goldfarb said, “The problem? I don’t really like the word “problem,” it’s your word, but the problem in the abstract is bigotry, helping the smaller community deal with the bigger community.” Goldfarb assures that “issues are definitely confidential.” Group discussions may be an option in the future, but for now, students can expect to receive one-on-one attention from the Safe Zone teachers.
Goldfarb says that while the Safe Zone is well supported by teachers—including Dr. Schultz, the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs—there are certainly students who oppose the idea out of discomfort or fear. The program’s goal is to ensure that everyone now has the opportunity to speak out. Through the Safe Zone program, students can discuss everything, from the bullying that they may face at school to their less-liberal home lives.
Sara Thompson-Tweedy, Dean of Student Development Services, has undergone training for the Safe Zone and was behind this project from the start. Dean Tweedy said she understands how important a program like this is. “This is something we felt we should be prioritized,” adding that, “Everyone has been supporting the idea.” What was constantly repeated by both the Dean and Goldfarb was that, “We want people to know they don’t have to live in isolation.” Tweedy hopes that students will “recognize the symbol and [know that they can] be open.”
Safe Zones are a safe place for students to be themselves and can be found all over school; some of these include the Writing Center, Math Lab, F113 Liberal Arts Office and Student Activities Office. Look for stickers bearing the official logo, a red triangle with the LGBTQ Safe Zone on the inside surrounded by a green circle, which will be placed on office doors.
Advocates feel the timing for the project is right because discrimination and challenges of the LGBTQ community have taken tragic tolls on people’s lives and have effected campus’s nationwide. By establishing a Safe Zone program, Sullivan is joining schools such as Western Michigan University, SUNY New Paltz, Texas A&M, Iowa State University, NYU, Indiana University and The University of Washington which have all participated in creating an environment where gay or bisexual students can feel they have someone to talk to.
Any student who wishes to obtain more information can contact Mr. Goldfarb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Annie Smith. Safe Zone image provided.
A Welcome Addition
Safe Zone is “diverse set of tools, another avenue of help for students when students need it.” - Shirley Sinacore, instructional assistant, math lab
“All homosexuals are different, some may not need the program but it helps knowing that there are people to talk to. … I would seek help if I was bullied, especially if it was a new school and new people that I was not close too.” – Matt, a member of this August’s incoming freshman class
“The hidden benefit of Safe Zone is a student that feels safe here and happy here, continues to study here. Anything we can do to preserve their rights is beneficial to them and the school.” – Frank Sinigaglia, academic and personal success advocate
“Knowing I’m able to help students more, help make them more comfortable, makes me more satisfied in my job.” – Debra Lewkiewicz, assistant professor, mathematics and natural sciences
In the Zone
Faculty and staff participating in Safe Zone as of Feb. 9 include: James Goldfarb, Lisa Lindquist, Lisa Caloro, Cindy Linden, Amy Porter, Angel Lamboy, Adrianna Mayson, Sara Thompson-Tweedy, Robert “Gandalf” Rosengard, Richard Arnold, Susan Rogers, Christine Kubis, Ryan Meikle, Curtis Arena, Eliany Gonzalez, Paula Cameron, Thomas Martin, Arlene Gordon, Shirley Sinacore, Debra Lewkiewicz, Paul Ginex, Scott Healy, Barbara Gref, Tara Reifenheiser, Rosemarie Hanofee, Cynthia Marcello, Beverly Moore.