Saturday, December 3, 2022

Faculty brings “Safe Space” organization to campus

The new campus organization, Safe Space, was created to give students a secure space to talk freely about their feelings.

A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, cultural background, religious affiliation, age or physical/mental ability without fear of feeling uncomfortable, unwelcome or unsafe.

Safe Space was created in 2012 when a group of gender and women’s studies seniors came up with the idea for their senior project at PSUC. As those students graduated, the idea of Safe Space stayed in the head of some faculty and staff on campus. Safe Space is located on many other campuses across the United States.

“The staff wanted to step up,” Butterfly Blaise said, deputy of Title IX, and gender and women’s studies professor.

Blaise has been a part of this organization since spring 2014.

The allies, faculty, staff and students trained to become people students can trust, are what bring the organization together.

To have an organization like this on campus allows the allies to use the power they have to stop discrimination against other people. It takes only a few people to change the way someone sees another person.

“In training, the students, faculty or staff learn the fundamentals of what it means to be an ally,” Blaise said.

Blaise said Safe Space wants as many voices on the committee as allies.

Jacob Avery, coordinator of Student Activities, is currently in the process of being trained to be an ally.

“It’s a very valuable resource to have, and it has a strong reputation,” Avery said.

The allies are creating a safe environment for students, especially LGBTQ, where these students can go to designated spots scattered across campus.

Sarah Owocki, lecturer and coordinator of the English as a second language program, said she became an ally to pay it forward and make it easy for students to come out and talk to people.

“When I came out during my college years, I received a lot of support from faculty and other students,” Owocki said. “That gave me a lot of confidence to continue coming out.”

Owocki went overseas and had to be closeted once again in her new environment. She said when she was overseas, young people came up to her and talked about the topic of sexuality.

“It was the hardest part of not being able to talk to them about that.”

After coming back to the United States, Owocki made it a priority to pay it forward and help other students.

“There is still discrimination against the LGBTQ community, but people really want to treat people equally and accept people,” Owocki said. “We want people to know with Safe Space, we just want to help and be supportive.”

Blaise said everyone needs a safe space, and that’s what they’re there for.

“We support every one of our students. We want to reach out to as many people as possible,” she said.

To become an ally of Safe Space, contact one of the allies on the fliers hanging around in the buildings on campus.

Email Samantha Stahl at samantha.stahl@cardinalpointsonline.com

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