When Lucretia McCulley, director of outreach services for Boatwright Memorial Library, first attended Safe Zone training on campus 15 years ago, it was a groundbreaking event. The program, which provides education about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues, fostered one of the first open discussions of the topic on Richmond’s campus.

Fast-forward to May 2010, when McCulley attended her second Safe Zone workshop with 30 other faculty and staff members interested in supporting and becoming allies to Richmond’s LGBT community.

As the resource librarian for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, McCulley has built the library’s LGBT collection. At the recent workshop, she found the conversation to be quite different from 1995.

“The first workshop [in 1995] was more introductory and basic,” she says. “The recent one was building on what we all know as employees and general citizens in society. It made me think about how much society has changed and grown in 15 years. … It was so nice that we had so many LGBT participants in the workshop. That has been a major change on campus — that people are willing to talk and share their own personal experiences.”

Safe Zone was recently revitalized by Common Ground, which works to support the University’s priorities of diversity and inclusion.

“Our goal is to help people become aware listeners and know the resources that are available for students,” says Glyn Hughes, director of Common Ground. “Coming out is a process that is ongoing for people who are LGBT. Our goal is to diminish the negative consequences for the person who is coming out.”

Hughes and Common Ground Assistant Director Lisa Miles have planned a series of brown bag discussions for Safe Zone members and will continue to hold workshops for new allies. 

Hughes led the Safe Zone workshop in May, assuring participants that, “It’s OK to not be completely comfortable. We are trying to make this a place to learn.”

He explained why Safe Zone training was necessary, citing numerous statistics that show LGBT students face higher rates of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.

Safe Zone covers topics such as LGBT terminology, sex/gender/sexuality spectrums, and coming out. During one exercise participants engaged in lively debate as they discussed terms such as “lesbian/dyke,” “drag queen,” and “straight.” Even members of the LGBT community do not always agree on acceptable terms, Hughes says.

At the end of the three-hour workshop, participants receive a rainbow-striped Safe Zone sticker to display in their workplace to visibly indicate they are allies of the LGBT community.

Kerstin Soderlund, associate dean for student and external affairs for the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, is a longtime ally. In her 17 years working in student affairs at other universities, she has had a number of students confide in her about their sexual orientations.

She attended May’s Safe Zone training to learn more about the LGBT resources available at the University of Richmond, where she has worked for only one year. Because she is a relative newcomer, LBGT students do not necessarily know she is an ally to their community.

She hopes displaying a Safe Zone sticker on her office door near the main entrance to Jepson Hall will help LGBT students feel at ease when talking with her.

“It’s a privilege if someone confides in you and feels comfortable enough with you that they can share and let you be a part of the [coming out] process,” she says. “When that happens, you need to be sure to say, ‘Thank you for letting me in on who you are and what you are about.’”

Peter LeViness, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, attended the workshop with members of his staff. He had participated in a Safe Zone workshop on campus seven years ago. “As counselors we’re always trying to make sure we’re welcoming and affirming across all lines of difference,” he says. “Those are skills that can always use updating.”

LeViness applauds the inclusion of access and diversity as objectives in Richmond’s strategic plan, The Richmond Promise. “The fact that we’re starting to see that in first-year classes and faculty hiring, I think that’s a really promising thing,” he says. “But it’s creating an environment here that is truly accepting and inviting.” He sees the revitalization of Safe Zone as an important step in that direction.

Safe Zone was recently revitalized by Common Ground, which works to support the University’s priorities of diversity and inclusion.
“Our goal is to help people become an aware listener and know the resources that are available for students,” says Glyn Hughes, director of Common Ground. “Coming out is a process that is ongoing for people who are LGBT. Our goal is to diminish the negative consequences for the person who is coming out.”
Hughes and Common Ground Assistant Director Lisa Miles have planned a series of brown bag discussions for Safe Zone members and will continue to hold workshops for new allies. 
Hughes led the Safe Zone workshop in May, assuring participants that, “It’s OK to not be completely comfortable. We are trying to make this a place to learn.”
He explained why Safe Zone training was necessary, citing numerous statistics that show LGBT students face higher rates of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.
Safe Zone covers topics such as LGBT terminology, sex/gender/sexuality spectrums, and coming out. During one exercise participants engaged in lively debate as they discussed terms such as “lesbian/dyke,” “drag queen,” and “straight.” Even members of  the LGBT community do not always agree on acceptable terms, Hughes says.
At the end of the three-hour workshop, participants receive a rainbow-striped Safe Zone sticker to display in their workplace to visibly indicate they are allies of the LGBT community.
Kerstin Soderlund, associate dean for student and external affairs for the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, is a longtime ally. In her 17 years working in student affairs at other universities, she has had a number of students confide in her about their sexual orientations.
She attended May’s Safe Zone training to learn more about the LGBT resources available at th University of Richmond, where she has worked for only one year. Because she is a relative newcomer, LBGT students do not necessarily know she is an ally to their community.
She hopes displaying a Safe Zone sticker on her office door near the main entrance to Jepson Hall will help LGBT students feel at ease when talking with her