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Dorm leaders will soon attend training on gay sensitivity

Residence hall group passes proposal

 by Allison Denny
 published on Wednesday, April 2, 2008

<b>PLAY IT SAFE:</b> Journalism senior Jane Christie displays a safe zone sign which promotes an area of respect and tolerance of sexual preference, ethnicity and gender./issues/news/704502
Deanna Dent / THE STATE PRESS
PLAY IT SAFE: Journalism senior Jane Christie displays a safe zone sign which promotes an area of respect and tolerance of sexual preference, ethnicity and gender.
 

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Starting this fall, leaders of the governing body for students living on-campus will be required to attend training on making dorms welcoming to gay and lesbian students.

A proposal passed Thursday by the Residence Hall Association the student governing body for on-campus resident issues made it mandatory for all executive board members and Hall Council presidents and programmers to go through the three-course SafeZONE sexuality sensitivity and understanding training program.

RHA Director Jane Christie said the change was necessary if the University wants to foster a safe, comfortable environment for all students not just gay and lesbian students living on campus.

"It's step forward for the organization and something that will make us more prepared to reach out to all our residents," she said.

The original proposal asked that community assistants formerly resident assistants be required to participate in the training, Christie said.

But making the program mandatory for community assistants is out of the control of the association, Christie said, as community assistants fall under Residential Life.

In the past, SafeZONE training has been offered to these employees.

Christie said she and next year's director will work with Residential Life in making the training mandatory for community assistants.

"We'll do anything to facilitate that happening," she said.

She instead worked with Ray Ceo Jr., director of the Human Rights Campaign at ASU, to change the wording of the proposal to instead recommend the training for community assistants and make it mandatory for all Hall Council presidents, programmers and executive board members.

The SafeZONE program is broken into three classes: SafeZONE 101, Gender Identity 101 and Becoming an Ally, according to SafeZONE's Web site.

Christie said the classes give students a better understanding of those who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning, or LGBTQ, community.

"It makes us prepared to have constructive, safe conversation," she said.

Ceo, an English sophomore and State Press columnist, said ASU is the only Pac-10 school that doesn't require CAs to undergo the sensitivity training.

"As such a large university I, as well as the LGBTQ Coalition, thought it was prudent that we get the ball rolling by getting the RHA to pass something," he said.

Many gay students don't feel comfortable living on campus or choose to get single rooms, Ceo said.

For those who do choose to have a roommate, Ceo added, it can be uncomfortable to room with a straight student.

"I know firsthand how awkward it can be to have a straight roommate when you yourself are gay," he said.

Communication in that situation is key, he added.

"What we are trying to do is give CAs the resources to be able to facilitate discussion if that ever arises," he said.

Economics junior Kate Cannavino took the first of the SafeZONE courses earlier this semester after becoming a CA.

Though she was already familiar with many of the concepts touched upon, Cannavino said it brought up some new ideas she'd never considered.

The course showed participants how important it is to be respectful of other students' lifestyles regardless of personal beliefs, she said.

SafeZONE represents the way society is changing, Cannavino said.

"The cultural trend is toward acceptance and accepting people coming out," she said. "It's showing that we acknowledge how the world is changing and how we're willing to bring more people to that acceptance."

Reach the reporter at: allison.denny@asu.edu.



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