Utah State University faculty, staff and students who are interested in volunteering to be a member of Allies on Campus can attend a three-hour seminar on Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The Allies on Campus are a network of faculty, staff and students who are committed to provide a safe zone for anyone who is dealing with sexual orientation or gender identity issues. The Allies on Campus have been operating since 2004 and encompass 27 other Utah State campuses across the state. The Ally Training Seminar is organized by the seven members of the Allies on Campus Steering Committee, who are students, faculty and staff.
“There are hundreds of allies,” said Brooke Lambert, the program coordinator. “We don’t have an accurate count of how many people attend the training seminars, mostly because of the students who graduate or the faculty that leave.”
The seminar begins with a brief introduction and moves into explaining common terminology and language that you have to be familiar with as an ally. After the terminology explanations are given, volunteers go through a “coming out” exercise that helps put them into the shoes of what it’s kind of like and to help them relate to the LGBTQ community. After the exercise volunteers listen and ask questions to a panel of LGBTQ members and they also tell their stories of coming out. Then the volunteers go over the importance of identity, anti-discrimination, statistics and policies, then go practice going through possible scenarios in small groups.
After they cover all of the information, Allies on Campus explain the expectations and responsibilities of being an Ally. The allies sign a contract which then gives faculty, staff and students a sticker or button which can identify themselves as Allies to members of the LGBTQ community if they needed and can also be contacted on Utah State’s Allies webpage also lists their contact information.
“It provides students with visual support through the sticker or a button and a reminder that they have support,” Lambert said.
All allies openly declare support of LGBTQ individuals and are comfortable with dealing with LGBTQ students who approach them to discuss issues and concerns. They will also provide a “safe zone” for anyone who needs it and are knowledgeable of current LGBTQ issues and concerns.
“Allies is important because though LGBTQ students comprise a small percentage of students on our campus, they are among the most marginalized,” said Nicole Vouvalis the Diversity Specialist. “I have heard from LGBTQ students that seeing the stickers around campus is a positive experience for them, because it reassures them that they are supported at USU. It also enables students to seek myself and other Allies out when they have any issues.”
As an Ally, she was able to help a student who was going through an issue.
“One example of a student seeking help from an ally includes last year, when a student had come out to his parents. His parents cut him off, and wouldn’t even share their tax information for this student to fill out his FAFSA,” Vouvalis said. “I was able to send him to someone I trusted in Financial Aid, and they helped him navigate that process without his parents’ support.”
Vouvalis has helped a lot of students as an Ally.
“As an Ally on Campus, I have seen many situations similar to that one among our students,” Vouvalis said. “I’m glad that being an Ally opens me up as a resource for these students. Even when I don’t know the solution to a problem, I know I have a great network of other Allies on Campus who can help. I’m glad that our support system exists, and I love being a part of Allies because it is something I truly believe in.”
To register for the LGBTQ Ally Seminar go to http://www.usu.edu/accesscenter/lgbtqa/allies/form/