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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Everyone Needs a Safe Space Ally

Written by  Dr. Karla M. Shepherd

The Diversity and Culture Center provides a wide range of services, educational programs, and cultural activities to support the creation of a multicultural community at the University of Baltimore. The Center provides an environment for learning, discussion, and fellowship that encourages exploration of our varied experiences.

Our initiatives help prepare students to live, serve, and succeed in a global, multicultural world, while challenging our students to be thoughtful, open-minded, and curious to explore and reflect on their own and others’ perspectives. Our programs create safe spaces for opinions and perspectives to be expressed through the dialogue process and promote multicultural learning, cultural competency and coalition building. The educational programs and trainings offered by the center are opportunities for participants to engage in dialogue challenge barriers and participate in educational activities that facilitate interaction, learning, and competence.

The Safe Space Ally Training is one of the educational programs offered by the Diversity and Culture Center. The purpose of the UB Safe Space Ally training program is to make the University of Baltimore campus a safer and freer environment for all members of our community, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Ally training seeks to establish a visible network of UB Safe Space Allies made up of students, faculty, staff, and administrators who offer safe, non-judgmental, and supportive advocates for people of all ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, ages, immigration status, and abilities.

The primary goals and objectives of the Safe Space Ally Training Program are to:

Identify, mobilize, and establish a network of faculty, staff, and students who are empathetic and knowledgeable about LGBTQIA issues and concerns.

Identify, mobilize, and establish a network of faculty, staff, and students who are empathetic and knowledgeable about LGBTQIA issues and concerns.

Foster an atmosphere on campus which supports the success of LGBTQIA persons.

Educate members of the UB campus community on the needs and concerns of LGBTQIA students, staff, and faculty.

To provide evidence of LBTQIA support by displaying a sign as a visible symbol of personal commitment.

To reduce the fear of reprisal and discrimination of LGBTQIA persons within the UB community.

The three hour training includes an overview of the Safe Space Program at UB, LGBTQIA vocabulary, theories and current LGBTQIA issues. The training also includes information about Heterosexual Privilege Theory and its impact on the LGBTQIA community. Additionally, participants learn the full scope of what it means to be an Ally to the LGBTQIA community as well as the resources that are available on campus and in the surrounding community. The training is interactive, and participation in a self-imagery exercise and hypothetical ally situation case studies allow participants to focus on self-reflection and to share their own personal experiences.

Training participants vary in knowledge, experience and exposure to the LGBTQIA community and issues. Our training was developed to meet participants at all levels, specifically focusing on those with a limited knowledge base.

Ally responsibilities include:

• Displaying the safe space placard / wearing lanyard, button

• Being available to members of the university community who wish to discuss LGBTQIA concerns and issues

• Share information about university and community resources related to LGBTQIA issues

• Respecting people’s need and desire for privacy and confidentiality

• Keeping current of resources and continue to learn about LGBTQIA issues

Allies can be identified by their UB Safe Space placard in their office/or working areas, Student Allies can be identified by their bright green lanyards and UB Ally button. Both serve as indicators of people with whom LGBTQIA people can speak openly and seek the support they need to succeed at the University of Baltimore.

Safe Space Ally Trainings are offered several times during the academic year. Since the program began in the fall of 2012, 120 members of the UB community have participated in the Safe Space Program.

For more information about the Safe Space Ally Training Program or any of the programs and services offered by the Diversity and Culture contact us at 410-837-5744, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Ubalt.edu/diversity.


The author is director of the Diversity and Culture Center, University of Baltimore.

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