Washburn provides training for Safe Zone

When it comes to the topic of sexual orientation, some people feel it is an uncomfortable issue to talk about and discuss with other people. At Washburn, there are people trying to make a difference through the Ally Safe Zone training program.

The first meeting of Washburn’s Ally Safe Zone training was held in the Lincoln Room of the Memorial Union last Friday afternoon.

Washburn’s Safe Zone training program is specifically available for students and faculty on campus who want to raise their own awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning issues. Beginning with basic training, participants discussed their reasons for wanting to become an Ally and how it would affect them in their everyday life. Trying to feel more comfortable, the five participants verbally agreed to a “Free to be me” statement, which meant that from there on, it would be a safe zone to discuss otherwise uncomfortable issues.

Marsha Carrasco Cooper, director of student activities and Greek life at Washburn, considered herself the host of the meeting, but definitely not an expert. Being an Ally for the last 11 years, Carrasco Cooper said that when she joined the organization, being an Ally was the newest trend, but it has slowly faded throughout the years.

“A lot of universities aren’t doing specific Ally training anymore,” said Carrasco Cooper. “It is just part of the university culture.”

There are Allies on campus at Washburn, but some of them have not gone through specific training. This was the sixth training date in two semesters, there are 40 members on campus, thus far. At some universities, placards are given to participants so students can identify a person who has gone through Safe Zone training. This is similar to the helping hands process, where handprints can be placed on windows of Safe Zones in neighborhoods if a child is in need of safety.

Carrasco Cooper thinks it is important to have an Ally program, and that’s why she started the program here at Washburn.

“I don’t have power in anything else, and this is where I’m going to have power,” said Carrasco Cooper. ” I want to use that power, and I want to educate. I want to be an Ally. That’s what it means to be an Ally. It is being part of the majority, non target group and working and advocating for this target group.”

The training is done through a three-hour discussion process. After going through basic training, participants may choose to move onto the next level of training called “Beyond the Basics Ally Afternoon.”

The next Ally Basic Safe Zone Training day is scheduled for Nov. 19. For more information on the program and training dates, visit http://www.washburn.edu/safezone.