Where do allies come from? An evaluation of a university Safe Zone program
Mack, John Peaslee
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Safe Zone (or Safe Space) programs are common on college campuses to encourage support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, (LGBTQ) and other people who identify as sexual and gender minorities. However, research describing the efficacy of Safe Zone programs is infrequent and often methodologically problematic. A program evaluation was performed of the Safe Zone Network program at the University at Buffalo, SUNY (UB). Measures were chosen to assess homonegativity, LGBTQ knowledge, attitudes, self-reported behavior, and identification as an LGBTQ ally, as well as a demographic survey. These measures were administered via paper survey before and after participation in the Safe Zone Network workshop. The same measures were administered before and after a health education program for use as control measurements. The data were analyzed with correlations and repeated-measures ANOVA. At pretest more pro-LGBTQ knowledge, attitudes, self-reported behavior, and ally self-identification was associated with identifying as a sexual and/or gender minority, attending the workshop voluntarily, being younger, and having more LGBTQ social contact prior to the workshop. Participation in the Safe Zone workshop was associated with significant changes in decreased homonegativity and hate, as well as increased LGBTQ knowledge and self-identifying as an LGBTQ ally, when compared to the control group. Despite differences in pretest scores based on the reason for participating in the workshop, reason for participation did not significantly relate to the amount variables changed over the workshop time, indicating that the workshop may be beneficial for both mandated and voluntary participants. More pro-LGBTQ pretest scores may have indicated more likelihood to change during the program. Overall, these results suggested that the UB Safe Zone Network program is related to prosocial changes in knowledge, attitudes, behaviors (such as the proxy could estimate), and ally self-identification, particularly for participants who are primed to be more sensitive to these issues. Results were discussed in context of current research. Limitations and future directions for research were discussed.