Just a year ago, the idea of the Malone-based Safe Space group was only starting to take root. Entering the new academic year, Safe Space President and senior psychology major Samuel Taylor reflects on the group’s progress. “This is really a family here,” he says.
According to the group’s Facebook page, Safe Space exists “to foster positive, interpersonal relationships, create safe dialogue, and build an accepting and understanding community that is healthy for those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer/Questioning, and their Straight Allies.”
Last year saw the beginning of regularly scheduled meetings. Taylor explains that meetings always begin with what he calls check–ins, which involve members updating the group on how their weeks have been. Check-ins are also an opportunity for members to introduce themselves and, if they are comfortable, identify their sexual orientation. Some members choose not to identify and Taylor emphasizes that “there are no assumptions at Safe Space.” Meetings are relaxed and often involve discussions about films and pieces of literature.
One big step that the group took last year was gaining their faculty advisor, Dr. Barb Drennan. Drennan, a professor of art, eagerly accepted the role and supports the premise of the group, expressing that “allies are good, friends are good.”
Earlier in Drennan’s career at Malone, a gay student confided in her, expressing the feelings of great shame and isolation that he experienced as a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender) student on campus. Her relationship with this student has had a lasting impact on Drennan. “[The issue] was never on my plate before,” she states, “but if there’s a student in my classroom, then it’s on my plate.”
For the 2012-2013 year, Taylor explains the first goal for the group is to continue to reach out to students. Safe Space would like to make sure every incoming freshman is aware that their community is here to stay.
Secondly, the group is still working with Vice President of Student Development Chris Abrams to finalize a constitution that can be passed by Student Senate, a necessary step for any campus club wishing to receive support from the University. At this point, a portion of the language in the Safe Space constitution needs rewording and clarification.
A final goal is to try to involve more faculty in the conversation. One way that the group hopes to achieve this goal is with a new sticker initiative. The group will be producing Safe Space stickers and distributing them to members, supporters, and interested faculty. As the group’s president explains, a faculty member would place the sticker in or around his or her office, which would represent their openness to talk about topics such as “bullying, discrimination, fear and judgment, faith and sexuality, and homophobia” with students. The stickers will read “This is a Safe Space for all God’s children.”
A new Safe Space meeting time has been set for 6:30 pm on Monday nights. Meetings take place in the Story Development Center in the basement of the library. Safe Space invites all who are interested in joining the dialogue to attend. “We are called to have the conversation,” Taylor suggests, and adds that “all are welcome at this table.”
“It’s not a campus approved group yet,” continues Drennan, “but it is a group, and it is a safe space.”
An error in an earlier version of this story reported an incorrect meeting day for Safe Space. The correct day is Monday.