Marshall University LGBTQ+ office provides safe space training

Marshall University’s LQBTQ+ office sponsored a safe space training and panel meeting discussion Sept. 28 in Drinko Library. Students and faculty in attendance learned about the LGBTQ+ community and Marshall’s mission to provide a safe place for students on campus.

“Safe Space Training increases the visible presence of student, faculty and staff allies who can help shape Marshall University’s culture of accepting all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” Shaunte Polk, sponsored program administrator for the Office of Intercultural Affairs, said.

Students and faculty members listened to and interacted with a panel of LGBTQ+ representatives. The mission of the training was to spread awareness about the LGBTQ+ community and to educate those who are unfamiliar. Having a safe space for students on campus is important for those coming out, Polk said.

“There are all these risk factors associated with coming out: homelessness, dropping out of school, being victims of abuse, not being provided with proper health care and sometimes ultimately suicide,” Polk said. “People do not realize coming from certain parts of West Virginia how hard and dangerous it can be to come out to your family, and even your friends, as LGBT.”

Marshall’s efforts to provide safe spaces for students are part of their mission to be an all-inclusive campus. These safe spaces are a place for students to feel comfortable exploring and expressing their identities, Polk said.

During the training, Polk discussed the disconnect between policy changes and practices within the state of West Virginia. She said there is no statewide protection, and people can be fired from their jobs for being LGBTQ+.

“Imagine somebody at your job found out something that you didn’t want made public, and then turned around and used it to harass you into quitting or they take it to your boss and get you fired,” panel member Chris Fain said. “What it does to your personal economy is devastating.”

Marshall and the LGBTQ+ offices are working to provide safe spaces that allow students to explore and express themselves freely, Polk said.

Rachel Riddle can be contacted at [email protected]