Safe Space Trains LGBTQ Forces

Katie Goodrich | Assistant News Editor


Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services will be facilitating Safe Space Training next Wednesday. The session will teach people about how to be allies to the Lesbian, Gay,          Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Community.

Safe Space Training on Butler’s campus began in 2001. Training sessions happen once each semester. Other training sessions for specific groups, like resident assistants, happen upon request.

A maximum of 20 people can sign up for each training session, said Keith Magnus, director and director of training for counseling and consultation services. More than 500 students, faculty, and staff have gone through the Safe Space Training since the program began.

The training usually happens later in the semester, but Counseling and Consultation Services moved the date up to take part of the R.E.A.C.H.’s—Respecting, Embracing, and Achieving Community Harmony—Awareness Week.

The open training sessions are completely voluntary.

“It’s important that the program is voluntary,” Magnus said.  “People should want to do it.”

While RAs all go through the training, they have a choice whether or not to display a Safe Space sticker, Magnus said.

The training session is three hours long. It focuses on awareness, knowledge and skill. Trainees play an interactive game in order to learn about relevant terms and significant dates for the LGBTQ community, Magnus said.

“We do a coming out exercise to help them be more empathetic to someone who is going through this kind of situation,” Magnus said. “We have an activity that we walk them through to get them a little closer to that experience.”

Students who identify as LGBTQ come in to answer any questions that the trainees may have. They share their experiences and talk about life on campus.

The next part of the training includes a video that made Kelsey Berggren, a sophomore RA in Ross Hall,  stop and think.

“The biggest thing that had an impact on everybody was a video,” Berggren said.

The video from YouTube depicted a world where same-sex marriage was the norm.

“A lot of it came down to being able to see things from a different perspective, whatever it may be,” Berggren said. “Afterwards, we discussed the video in small groups. Having different people in your group makes a big difference too. It was a really good group of people to be doing it along with.”

The training ends with a role-playing exercise. Participants have conversations that they could have as an ally.

“We observe them during the role-playing, and then we give them feedback and tips,” Magnus said.

The training is set up to be engaging and fun while also conveying information. Counseling and Consultation Services aims for the training to make a lasting impression on participants.

They try to change the training and update it for people,  such as RAs, who take the training more than once.

Magnus has seen the Butler community grow and change since he came to campus.

“From 2001 to now, I have seen a shift,” Magnus said. “Students are saying campus is a more safe space for them. We want (students) to be able to identify (allies), so students know where they can go. We want to build a network on campus for support and community.”

While Magnus feels the training is beneficial and is making a difference, he said he hopes that it won’t always be needed.

“I am hoping we can go out of business with the whole thing and have campus feel totally safe,” Magnus said. “I think it is important now because students say that there is still work that needs to be done.”

Andrew Gelwicks, a sophomore strategic communication major, is an openly gay student on Butler’s campus. He wrote an article about his experiences on campus and in a fraternity for Out Magazine online.

“I’ve realized how accepting everyone is (in the Butler community), and it took me by surprise,” Gelwicks said.

After working with his gay-straight alliance in high school, Gelwicks said he realized how important the training is to Butler’s campus.

“I think in college people are in that phase of trying to figure themselves out,” Gelwicks said. “Since that is happening, it’s important for faculty to know what’s going on and have students be able to come to them.”

Gelwicks said he thinks students want someone to talk to that is neutral. An ally can be that person for a student.

“Going through the training is so crucial if you want to be an ally,” Gelwicks said. “It is for students to know they have someone to talk to who won’t judge and has a lot of life experience.”

Berggren says she enjoyed her experience going through training.

“I would love to see more people—especially   students—trained and know what Safe Space is all about,” Berggren said.

Spreading the word of Safe Space can help change the environment on campus, both directly and indirectly.

“A lot of people who go through the training may never have a conversation about this, but the placard still means something to students who identify [as LGBTQ],” Magnus said.