At the beginning of each year, all students at Goshen College are required to complete Vector LMS training modules. These modules cover topics like racism, sexual assault, homophobia and drug use and generally teach people how to be safe in college and get along with others.Although assigned with good intentions, Vector training modules are far from what is needed for our campus community. I have not seen these modules taken seriously or paid attention to by my peers, and it is easy to complete them without really processing the information given. When I do these modules, it’s easy to just let the video play while I’m doing something else, and I have seen others do the same. It’s also easy to pass the quizzes without paying attention.
These modules, because they aren’t taken seriously, do not seem very effective. In fact, I experienced an instance of discrimination by a GC individual just a few days after they completed the Vector modules. This was very stressful for me and made me feel insecure and less safe on campus as a visibly queer man.
However, with proper SafeZone training in this instance, the hurt and stress from it could have been avoided.
Other than the Vector training modules, GC has very minimal required domestic violence, interpersonal violence awareness and SafeZone training. SafeZone training for those who are not aware, focuses on increasing knowledge of LGBTQ identities, gender and sexuality, and teaches about how to make a safe place for LGBTQ individuals on campus. This training also provides opportunities to examine prejudice and privilege, and how to interact positively with queer individuals. A study done by Florida A&M University saw a substantial increase in participants’ knowledge of comfort levels around the LGBTQ community after SafeZone training. By increasing knowledge and comfort around the queer community, SafeZone training effectively makes our campus safer and more welcoming for queer students. This training is not required on campus, and the closest thing we have is PIN training, which is given in all first-year ICC classes. Other organizations are welcome to have training, but they are not mandatory.
When SafeZone training and similar programs are made optional, there’s a pattern of the same people showing up to provide support, and it doesn’t reach new people. With optional training, and the same people showing up, we are only preaching to the choir. The reality is that for safety training to be effective, it needs to be mandatory, in-person training. People who actually need this training would not go to one by choice or if it is optional.
Advocates is an LGBTQ advocacy group on campus which I have been a co-leader of since my sophomore year. For many years, since even before I joined Advocates, we have been trying to get in-person LGBTQ SafeZone training required for students and faculty members. However, we were unable to conduct the training in ICC classes and freshman orientation for reasons such as scheduling. SafeZone training works at preventing violence, and especially with the upcoming election polarization, SafeZone training needs to be prioritized if this campus is to be safe and welcoming for all individuals.
The best way for SafeZone training to be made required is for them to be implemented into the regular chapel/convocation schedule, not as a bonus convocation. By adding them to the regular schedule, we would be able to reach more people and create the most positive effects.
I would also suggest that these trainings be implemented somehow into first-year orientation. Although I recognize that orientation for first-years is already a tight schedule, it is important for this training to happen so first-years enter campus with an understanding of how to get along safely with others different than them.
GC takes pride in being a diverse and welcoming campus. However, we still have a lot of work to do, and not all students feel welcomed. Mandating SafeZone training would be a way to make sure the safe and welcoming culture on campus remains preserved.