BLACK: Creating a safer zone for all

 

 

Brigid Black

You have probably seen the unmistakable decals in the hallways of your residence halls and academic buildings. They are shiny and rectangular and feature a logo displaying handprints of all colors of the rainbow encircling a blue and white Villanova “V.” The words “Safe Zone” are emblazoned across the “V.” More words surround the logo, proclaiming, “Ignorance, bigotry, harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated here!”

This colorful design is the distinctive mark of the Villanova Safe Zone program.

Perhaps you have come across these decals but are not quite sure what they mean. What exactly is the Safe Zone program, and what is its goal?

Safe Zone volunteers are students, faculty and staff members whose rooms and offices have been designated as safe havens for anyone feeling harassed or discriminated against due to issues such as race, class, gender and sexual orientation, among other factors. These are places where open and honest talk about such issues is encouraged and meant to take place.

This week, a number of students and faculty members will undergo training for Safe Zone. Training sessions are normally held twice a year: once during the beginning of the fall semester and once in the spring.

The two-hour session consists of discussions and activities focused on how to be an effective Safe Zone volunteer. Topics covered include how to be a good active listener and how to recommend resources for students.

Usually, specific members of the University community are sought out and encouraged to apply for Safe Zones training, including professors, RAs, Diversity Peer Educators and members of the Gay-Straight Coalition and the Multicultural Students League.

These are individuals who already stand out as respectful leaders on campus and thus are usually the perfect target audience for Safe Zone recruitment. However, other students who are interested may also inquire about and apply to the program.

Upon completing training, every new volunteer receives a decal to place outside his or her room or office door.

Safe Zone is a program that is without doubt essential to this university. However, part of the reason of why it is so important is how badly we actually need it.

How many times have you heard your peers emitting phrases like “That’s so gay” in the same residence halls and academic buildings in which Safe Zone decals are present? Homosexual slurs have become a part of everyday vocabulary here at Villanova, while another six-letter word beginning with “n” is also utilized far too regularly.

Language like this is disgustingly disrespectful and a huge slap in the face to the mission of our university.

Unfortunately, ignorance is to blame for much of this. Many students have grown up in environments where there is a severe lack of diversity of many different kinds, including racial-ethnic backgrounds, social classes and sexual orientations.

While we are all products of our environment and upbringing, this should not imply that we do not possess the ability to change, especially in college – an ideal setting to embrace things that are new and different to us. And change, of course, takes effort.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the blatant bigotry in our midst. Instead we must make the collective effort to produce positive changes at Villanova for students who have ever felt victimized for being “different.”

In theory, Villanova should be one giant oasis for all of us, and this is exactly why the Safe Zone program exists.

When students see a Safe Zones decal, they immediately know that there are people here who are devoted to creating an atmosphere of acceptance while also condemning hateful speech and behavior. Those colorful logos outside our doors and offices are signs of hope for a better, brighter future for Villanova and for our society as well.

Ultimately, we need more individuals on campus who are willing to stand up and say “no more” to hate and say “yes” to love.

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Brigid Black is a junior English and French major from Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected]