MALINI ADKINS — Every student needs a trusted community that they can rely on whenever they may need.

Whether that takes the form of a fraternity or sorority, a sports team, an academic club, or even in a school newspaper staff that’s in need of new writers… for many people at Denison, Safe Zone is that dependable alliance. Safe Zone is a campus-wide program designed to educate students, faculty, and staff on LGBTQ+ identities and experiences. This program provides various workshops that are open to everyone that is interested in becoming certified individuals or facilitators. Each workshop takes place at 4:00 PM on February 28th, March 29th and April 16th in the resident halls. During those workshops, people will be educated in the issues that LGBTQ+ individuals face on almost a daily basis, predominantly on college campuses.

People can hone and develop skills on how they can be an ally for the LGBTQ+ people. They will also be able to define key terms and concepts pertaining to gender and sexuality and search for resources available to LGBTQ+ communities and allies at Denison University. Additionally, the Office of Gender and Sexuality will offer more workshops and training that will allow participants to delve deeper into certain topics. Completion of the Safe Zone workshops will allow participants to be part of the Safe Zone Network—they are committed to implementing the knowledge they gained in building a more inclusive campus community.

Jeremy Torres ‘18 is one of the leaders of the Safe Zone workshops. He graduated with a major in political science and a concentration in queer studies. Jeremy is currently a Community Coordinator for first-years in Residential Communities at Denison.

“Safe Zone has always been at Denison,” Torres said. “We [Dr. Creasap and I] wanted to make sure that there was a visible network established that students can go to and be trained in allyship. We now have a page within our Denison page that shows all the staff faculty that has been trained in Safe Zone so students can visibly see who their potential support system can be.”

Since Torres is an alumnus, he saw where the ally ship was lacking and wanted to increase it.

“I see allyship as a way in which it will retain students, but also to build that community of relationships between students because now there is a visible support system within the community where students can turn to each other when they’re questioning their sexuality or have questions about gender and sexuality,” Torres said.  “That is something really resonated with me…my biggest fear was that, when I graduated, Safe Zone would no longer be a thing on this campus.”

Student Safe Zone has gone through a lot of prototyping last semester and has officially kicked off this semester. “I think our core message with Student Safe Zone training is allyship, support, and love,” Torres said. “You all are here for four years, and we want to establish that it is a space where you are supported no matter who you are…. Safe Zone is not about gay versus straight or how straight people can be allies to gay people, it’s about how we can all be allies together.”