By Victoria Lavelle
Since 2005, DCCC has been decking the halls with neon stickers, but to date little has been known about them.
Students hiking across campus might have taken notice to the colorful symbol on the stickers placed all around campus. Some students may have been wondering what they are, while other curious onlookers might have questioned the thought behind them.
The brightly colored stickers are symbols for the college’s Safe-Space Ally program, and more of them are adorning classroom doors and office windows across all six DCCC campuses.
The eye-catching symbols are a signal to students that they are entering a safe-space and they serve as a welcome mat for LGBTQ+ students. Each safe-space marker ensures students that they are in a zone where the college staff member has been identified as an ally for the LGBTQ+ student population.
In 2018, the National School Climate survey found that 85 percent reported being verbally harassed, while 65 percent of LGBTQ+ students reported hearing homophobic slurs, 30 percent of LGBTQ students reported missed at least one day due to feeling uncomfortable.
DCCC counselor Jennifer Kalligonis explained that the Safe-Space Ally program has been underway since 2005 or several years, and the hope is to create visibility of the emblems and promote awareness of its meaning and intended purpose.
“Our goal is to offer LGBTQ+ students a supportive environment during their time here at DCCC,” Kalligonis said. “We want LGBTQ+ students and employees to feel welcomed and safe.
Research has found that attempted suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth is significantly higher than among the general population. Currently, we have over 90 college employees trained and actively participating in the Safe-Space Ally program. These employees range from support staff to faculty to upper level administration.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), colleges should make their presence visible to the student population by encouraging participating faculty members of the Safe-Space Ally program to display their logo stickers in a visible location such as their office or classroom, and even on book bags and purses.
A 2018 Gallup Poll found that 87 percent of college students thought Safe-Space programs at the nation’s colleges and universities provide necessary resources for campus students if they feel threatened or uncomfortable by things they see or hear.
On the flip side, 51 percent of those students polled were against implementing institutional speech codes or codes of conduct that restrict offensive or biased speech on campus that would be permitted in society more generally.
Computer science major Aryanna Jackson explained that for LGBTQ+ students the Safe-Space Ally symbol is more than just a colorful decoration.
“The florescent pink inverted triangle within a neon green ring logos [Safe-Space Ally symbols] are a reminder that there are compassionate and trustworthy staff members available for LGBTQ+ students here at DCCC,” Jackson said. “It’s a relief to know we can rely on some of our professors and staff here on campus for help, guidance, and advice. In today’s polarized nation, we need that reassurance more than ever.”
The Safe-Space Ally symbol also signals that homophobic remarks or hateful acts towards LGBTQ+ students will not be tolerated at college campuses and will be addressed in an educational and informative manner, according to the HRC.
But not everyone agrees that the Safe-Space logo being brandished across campus is for a greater cause.
A Municipal Police Academy Student who requested to remain anonymous explained that the symbol only fuels supporters of President Trump who claim that safe spaces create an “over sissified” student body.
“Doesn’t anyone watch the news,” the anonymous student said. “Those symbols are for the weak and frail [students]. FOX News hosts laughs at those type of programs. They say students who need them are a bunch of snowflakes. Besides, [in some cases] it infringes upon the First Amendment right to free speech.”
Subsequently, if someone at college is reportedly stating myths or misinformation about gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals, LGBTQ+ allies have the opportunity to educate them of more accurate information under the Safe-Space Ally program.
Safe Space/Ally Training Sessions educate DCCC employees and raise awareness regarding issues that LGBTQ+ students and staff might face. Allies receive a certificate and a Safe-Space triangle sticker to display in their offices, which identifies their office as being a “safe space” for an LGBTQ+ student or employee to be “out.”
Since 2015, DCCC has held a workshop that trains LGBTQ+ allies on issues regarding transgender students. Participants are walked through the diversity that exists beyond the gender binary and educated on the proper umbrella terms and definitions related to trans-students. Information and tools continue to be introduced to participants in the Safe-Space program each year in order to make them more effective allies to all LGBTQ+ students.
Contact Victoria Lavelle at firstname.lastname@example.org