Changes to the USF Safe Zone Program, provided through the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), will roll out later this fall, offering sessions on Oct. 29 and Nov. 20.
The program attracts students, staff and faculty to complete a four-stage training that aims to educate students, faculty and staff on advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.
The last stage of the training, Advocacy, is the new addition, where participants learn what it means to be an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and learn more about the history of the movement.
According to OMA Assistant Director Rachel Garcia, the Safe Zone Program was originally created during the 2002-03 academic year to help educate the USF community by promoting understanding, support and inclusivity through interactive conversations and activities, such as in the Allyship section, where OMA breaks down the various steps of allyship so that participants learn new skills to serve as an ally.
When it was first created, the training consisted of a single three-hour session. With the new changes, the training includes four parts, including Education Part One and Two, Allyship and Advocacy. Each module takes up to two hours to complete.
According to Rachel Garcia, assistant director of OMA, the new changes were made due to participant feedback requesting more time to explore each module and topics covered.
“Safe Zone impacts students in creating education around LGBTQ+ issues and helps build a sense of belonging on campus,” Garcia said. “We hope that by creating a more knowledgeable community, LGBTQ+ students will feel more supported on campus.”
The first section of the training, Education Part One, focuses on fundamental terms, identities and experiences related to the LGBTQ+ community. The second section, Education Part Two, focuses on trans+ and gender non-binary communities, according to OMA’s website.
The third section, Allyship, teaches its participants models of acceptance, responses to potential situations and provides visible support to the LGBTQ+ community at USF.
The training is offered multiple times throughout the year, including during the summer term.
Over the past five years, 2,000 students, staff and faculty participated in the training. From the 2016-17 to the 2017-18 school year, there was a 78 percent increase in total attendees and a 70 percent increase in knowledge gains, according to Garcia.
“As we continue implementing the program, we’ll continue to listen to the feedback we receive to ensure we’re meeting the needs of the USF community”, Garcia said.