Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
January 8, 1999

"Safe Zone" review results to be shared

by Anne Dolan

While hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities have Safe Zone projects, Iowa State is one of the first to study the program's impact on the population it targets: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students. The results of the qualitative study will be presented by associate professor of education Nancy Evans and associate dean of students Houston Dougharty Friday, Jan. 22, in the Memorial Union Sun Room. Their presentation begins at noon. It is the talk they have been invited to present to several professional organizations this year, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the American College Personnel Association and the Iowa Student Personnel Association.

The Safe Zone Project consists of a brochure and a sticker that is voluntarily displayed by staff, faculty and students to demonstrate their support of LGBT people at ISU. The Safe Zone symbol is intended to send a message of understanding and non-judgment. The Dean of Students office launched the project at Iowa State in the fall of 1997 with funding from a student recruitment and retention grant awarded by the Professional and Scientific Council.

Evans, whose research focuses on the effects of campus environments on students, offered to add a Safe Zone review to her research plate last spring. With new ISU assistant dean of students Vernon Wall, Evans co-edited Beyond Tolerance, one of the most well-read books on diversity in higher education. Assisted by several students, she interviewed 42 people, including LGBT students and faculty, and people who display stickers on their doors.

"In qualitative research, the goal is to interview until you start hearing the same things." Evans said. "Then you know you're hearing the range of reaction."

She said the study included collecting newspaper articles on the project and e-mail messages received by the LGBT Student Services office. It also included a count of Safe Zone stickers visible from corridors of campus buildings to assess where the "safe zones" are. (Stickers on computers or office bulletin boards, for example, weren't counted.) These results have been mapped to show high and low levels of concentration.

Dougharty said private donations totaling $1,100 so far will fund the Safe Zone project in its second year. LGBT Student Services funding will support the project as well. He said the focus this year is on student participation and education. An invitation to participate in the program also will be sent to all employees hired since Thanksgiving 1997, when the first brochures and stickers were distributed.

On Jan. 22, Iowa State's LGBT community will hold its second annual "Small Victories Day." The celebration will include a talk by Anthony D'Augelli, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State who specializes in issues such as diversity and homophobia in higher education. His talk begins at 7 p.m., also in the Memorial Union Sun Room.

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