Safe Zone?

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tollhouse:

Is anyone required to attend Safe Zone training?  We are being told we need to attend this 3-hour event.

Could someone explain to me why I need training in this? 
Students are students are students... whether they are gay, straight, purple, disabled, short, etc.

I am not really interested in my student's choice in their life-partners.  Nor do I feel it is my business.

I have friends that are gay and lesbian and I don't treat them any differently.
What am I supposed to learn?  ... or why am I supposed to treat students differently because of who they have sex with?

3 hours.

polly_mer:
Quote from: tollhouse on February 01, 2013,  2:06:31 AM

What am I supposed to learn?


Keep in mind that I know nothing about this specific program, but I am the veteran of dozens of programs foisted on engineers to make us more "welcoming" to diverse people.

What you are supposed to learn is that background experiences matter in how people perceive interactions.  What you consider normal and neutral may be perceived very differently by people who think normal is something else.  For example, engineers are generally very blunt people.  "That's wrong.  Here's what I think," is a fairly neutral statement and we're exchanging information.  However, some discourse communities have a culture of prefacing all potentially negative comments with "Interesting.  I see where you are coming from, but have you considered the possibility of X?"  When those two cultures meet, both parties are annoyed.  "Touchy-feely, wishy-washy crap," is the conclusion from the engineer.  "Bulldozer with no respect for other views," is the conclusion from the other person.  A trained outside observer notes "culture clash that could have been prevented if both parties knew more about other cultures.  Let's have some training."  

Similar examples can be given for a range of things that people trained in specific cultures think are neutral, but the folks who are trained observers of multiple cultures can see will be problems when cultures collide.  This is one area where the postmodernists aren't wrong about the text being in the interpretation, not just "neutral" words.  This is also one area where the best of the women's studies, race studies, and cultural studies folks excel and do very good work--if they remember that they are speaking to those of us who aren't trained in those areas so the researchers target their messages appropriately with adequate necessary background given.

Unfortunately, what usually happens is a cultural clash where someone who has an interest in X studies does touchy-feely crap and spreads around blame to attempt to shame people into adopting their views ignores the breadth of experience and preferred communication methods in the audience to focus on their own special research interests while using techniques appropriate to the research community to "communicate" with the audience.  What happens then is not pretty as the entire point of learning about others is obscured in miscommunication and annoyance by those who could have learned something, but were instead exposed to propaganda about respecting differences in only a couple areas where the typical (possibly erroneous) idea is those differences don't matter in many contexts.

7ate9:
Taking a chance that this is a serious request for information, here are some examples of what you might discuss:

1) Let's say I'm a language instructor. My course uses a video series in which characters talk about their families and jobs. All of the characters are heterosexual, and the men have professional jobs, like doctor, lawyer, director of a company, public servant, professor. The students also use a textbook, in which they learn words to describe people (short, tall, fat, thin, pretty, ugly), and, based on a drawing of a male character's body, how to describe their bodies (arm, leg, head, chest). Students who travel to Language-speaking countries can describe their familes and the work they do, and, if needed, they can seek medical attention for injuries.

But wait. Can a student who is GLBT, or whose family members are GLBT, describe her family? Can a student whose family is poor describe the work his family does? Can a student who is pregnant or breastfeeding, who has been sexual assaulted, or who needs an abortion seek medical attention for these very common medical issues, based on the words she knows to describe her body? No - unlike the students who are middle class or wealthy, heterosexual, and male, these students must ask for extra information in order to learn the same basic skills.  

This describes an actual language tele-course, used widely in high schools and colleges across the US. How could an instructor using this course adapt the materials to make sure all students get the same value the class, for the same amount of effort?

2) Let's say I'm a developmental math instructor. I give my students word problems to help them understand how to apply math skills in their real lives. I want to make sure as many of my students as possible can picture themselves in these situations, and I hope that as many of them as possible will think about the lesson outside of class. (I am not a math instructor and have no knowledge of the pedagogical value or purpose of word problems. It's just an example.)

Should I name the characters in my word problems Jim, Jack, Robert, Nigel, and Patrick and set the problems up on football fields? Or might I be better off naming them Mei, Priya, Nikhil, Robert, Sally, and Abdul and setting the problems up in football fields, labs, kitchens, sewing rooms, dances, dog parks, retail jobs, etc.?

3) Let's say I hold an administrative position, and I'm responsible for student safety. I am aware that there have been two suicides in my town, one a trans student at my university and another a butch lesbian student at the local high school that feeds into my university. I am also aware that gender non-conforming and trans students are dropping classes because of bullying from other students, and that the GLBT students' club has taken a handful of reports of gender non-conforming students being assaulted in or denied entry to bathrooms.

How do I address these various safety issues? Would it help to release a map showing the locations of gender-neutral bathrooms, or to create more gender-neutral bathrooms? Is there anything faculty can do to eliminate in-class bullying? What kind of mental health support do my students need? And where can I find more information?

ETA: the reason I thought it might not be serious is because the inclusion of "purple" students suggests a determination not to take students' differences seriously.

krisanthe:
Quote from: polly_mer on February 01, 2013,  8:25:24 AM

What you are supposed to learn is that background experiences matter in how people perceive interactions.  What you consider normal and neutral may be perceived very differently by people who think normal is something else.  For example, engineers are generally very blunt people.  "That's wrong.  Here's what I think," is a fairly neutral statement and we're exchanging information.  


Thanks for posting this, Polly.  I'm not an engineer, but I'm pretty sure I fall in to the blunt category.  I don't mean to be, but from my point-of-view, If a student asks a question, I'm going to be straight forward and answer it. Done and done.  But maybe I need to do a better job at throwing in the "thanks for checking", "how's everything else going?", "that's an interesting idea" comments.

flyingbison:
Quote from: tollhouse on February 01, 2013,  2:06:31 AM


Could someone explain to me why I need training in this? 
Students are students are students... whether they are gay, straight, purple, disabled, short, etc.



I think you have answered your own question.

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