Safe Zone provides sanctuary for K-State students

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By definition, a sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety, and that is the kind of place the Safe Zone program is trying to create on the Kansas State campus.

“The program began as a movement to support the LGBTQ community in the 70s and has since evolved to include marginalization and social justice,” Anna Waugh, graduate student and Safe Zone coordinator, said.

Several campuses, including the University of Kansas, Ohio State University, New York University and others across the nation have versions of the program.

Groups like the LGBT Resource Center, the Office of Institutional Equity, the Office of Student Life, Counseling Services, the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, the Provost’s Office and the K-State Family Center cooperate to support the Safe Zone program.

“The curriculum is built around the trainings,” Waugh said. “We try to rely heavily on the expertise of people here at K-State and in the community.”

Waugh said the program’s training sessions start off with background that shares the history and resources of Safe Zone. Then have goals based on individual speakers and meetings.

We update our curriculum every couple years to have relevant training,” Waugh said. “The more people (who) know, the better.”

“Fifteen meetings are planned for this semester to teach anyone who wants to learn,” said Waugh.

Topics discussed at these meetings include student disabilities, trauma informed responses, sexuality and gender identity and more, which can be found on their website.

Although the meetings are intended for students and faculty, they are also open to the community. The most recent meeting was about sexual violence and campus safety.

“I found the meeting to be very beneficial,” Emma Barnett, senior in political science, said. “I feel more aware and have more resources to share with someone who might come up to me.”

Barnett said there was an introduction into support and trauma awareness.

“There were some students there, but It would be cool to see more at the meetings,” Barnett said.

On campus, faculty and administrators who participate in the program wear stickers to show students that they support Safe Zone. The stickers are round, with a purple and white logo that says “open minds, open doors.”

Kimetris Baltrip, assistant professor for journalism and mass communications, said Safe Zone helps create a safe and supportive home for students at K-State.

“There is this ideal at K-State to be a family and in that, what concerns one on some level concerns others as well,” Baltrip said. “Safe Zone is a noble way for the community to care for one another.”

Through the program, faculty and students have been able to come together to create a community that fosters acceptance and compassion.

“Knowing what Safe Zone stands for, it’s incredible to know there are people trained to help create a greater safe zone for all of campus,” Mark Nelson, senior in social sciences, said.

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