I had a conversation recently that went like this:
Ally Training is coming up. If you haven’t attended before I really recommend it! – Me
“We’re already an ally for ALL our students. Why do we need to go to training?”
“Are we though?” – Me
“Well of course! All our students know they can talk to us about anything!”
Blank stare – Me
**This ally training is geared specifically towards being an ally for the LGBTQ community.**
This is what we want our students to believe about us, but at the end of the day, especially concerning this topic, the last things our students assume is that we’re their ally. I mean lets be honest, this is conservative, Clemson, SC we’re talking about. I think this partly stems from the belief that in order to be your ally, I also have to agree with you.
At the end of this ally training you’re asked to wear a pin, put something in your office, etc. to show students you are a “safe zone”.
I also heard this statement, “I’ll go to training, but I’m not going wear a pin!”
So, are we really an ally for ALL students? I mean if you bring it up, I guess I’ll listen, but I’m certainly not going to invite the conversation or let them know this is a safe space?
No matter our personal beliefs, our students need to know they can confide in us. We’re now working with a generation who likes to share. Look at Facebook and Twitter, we want to tell our stories. We want someone to listen. LISTEN. So maybe you don’t agree, but just by listening you changed that students life. You gave them a safe zone to discuss their identity, the impact it has, and now, just maybe, they can continue through that development process.
I’m a firm believer in knowing your biases and addressing them if you need too, keeping your values at the forefront of all you do, but I’m also a firm believer in respecting ALL and providing the same opportunity to ALL. I was once asked in a counseling class, “what one person could you not serve as their counselor if asked professionally to do so?” Of course some things came to mind (which is why I’m not in clinical mental health counseling… I don’t think I could respectfully counsel a child molester). But at the end of the day, my job as a professional in higher education is to give fair, equal opportunities to all. The least I can do is just listen. You don’t have to agree or disagree, tell them right or wrong, just LISTEN and then if you feel uncomfortable working through some of those issues, respectfully refer them. But for the love, please give them, a safe, respectful environment to share their story…you may be the first person to just listen.