The Murray State ally directory has almost doubled the number of faculty and staff participating in the safe zone program.
The safe zone program encourages faculty and staff to become allies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, faculty and staff. It gives faculty and staff the opportunity to voluntarily designate their area as a safe zone.
The program is designed to reduce prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression at Murray State by creating a safe and affirming campus, according to a statement on the University’s website.
The program is intended to send a message to students that the designated area contains a visual and vocal ally.
“So far we have 154 faculty and staff on the list,” Jody Cofer, academic program specialist and Alliance adviser, said. “More are still coming in.”
Cofer said a full list of faculty and staff who participate in the safe zone program are available online.
“It is a working list, and it is updated regularly,” Cofer said. “For those that are always working on these kinds of issue it can show progress to how far we have come. I would almost argue within reason that every area has a participant, all of the major divisions are represented.”
Cofer and Josh Adair, assistant professor of English, are working to create a training program for the participants of the safe zone program.
Cofer said safe zone participants lack training – something he hopes to work on in the future.
“Students are already under a lot of pressure with classes and to find their place socially on campus,” Brian Kinnaman, senior from Hazelwood, Mo., and Alliance member, said. “So when it comes to being able to express what can be a difficult subject with a mentor, professor or administrator, it is imperative that they know they have one less potential barrier to break.”
Cofer said the next step in the safe zone program would be a seminar for those who have been designated as safe zones.
“One idea on the table is create a film or short video to view on your own time and sign off,” he said. “To go on the safe zone list the participant would have to watch the video.”
Cofer said the goal is to have some sort of training or workshop available for the allies.
“I can see so much more growth potential in the program’s future,” Kinnaman said. “Training of those faculty and staff who do wish to post a sticker outside of their office to know the LGBT and ally resources Murray State offers and how to handle specific situations that a student might bring to them, in my opinion, is the next step in the program’s growth.”
Said Cofer: “I would say the safe zone program is not only for LGBT students. But it did start as a partnership between the Alliance and MSU.”