UWF’s Argo Allies create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students
The first group of 45 University of West Florida faculty and staff have completed the University’s Argo Allies: Safe Space Training Program.
Through education and awareness, the goal of the Argo Allies: Safe Space Training Program is to make UWF a more welcoming, safe and inclusive campus for LGBTQ+ individuals. LGBTQ+ is an encompassing term that includes but is not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. Once participants have completed all three training sessions, they receive a Safe Space certificate and sticker to display on their door or window to signal their status as an Argo Ally.
Jade Doswell is the diversity coordinator for the Office of Equity and Inclusion and facilitator of the Argo Allies training program. “For many members of the University community, the presence of allies to whom they can turn for support — or even the simple knowledge that allies exist — can be a big factor in developing a positive sense of self, building community, coping with bias and working to improve school climate,” Doswell said.
Zackary Newman, coordinator of orientation in UWF’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, believes it is important for faculty and staff to expand their knowledge and retain the best practices to ensure that every Argo feels safe at UWF. “As a queer individual, it is important for me to learn how to better help and relate to the students and be a safe space for them to turn to,” Newman said. “Students matter, and it is important to make sure they feel that they do.”
A separate Argo Allies training is available to UWF students. That training taught junior social work major Honor Bell a few new things despite being an intersectional member of the LGBTQ+ community. “You get to learn about so much more than what you get just from your own experiences,” Bell said. “You learn how to be inoffensive to others in the LGBTQ+ world and how to hold each other in love while holding yourself accountable.”
Luis Hernandez Gomez, graduate counseling student and graduate assistant in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, said the Argo Allies: Safe Space training boils down to three core things: love, respect and commitment for one another. “Our hope is that everyone who forms part of the LGBTQ+ community at UWF feels accepted and embraced for being exactly who they are. We want to create a societal ripple effect that turns knowledge into action for the betterment of the Pensacola community and beyond.”
More Argo Ally trainings for members of the UWF community are in the works. “All three sessions of the training for UWF employees filled up quickly, so we are excited to offer additional Argo Allies: Safe Space Trainings in 2023,” Doswell said. “By providing a safe and brave space to examine what participants do and do not understand about the LGBTQ+ community, they are empowered to learn about themselves and others, making UWF more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.”
For more information about equity and inclusion at UWF, visit uwf.edu/inclusion.