Beyond Safe Zones: Systematizing inclusivity

February 10, 2020
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Competencies
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Leadership and Management
  • AM2020 Social Justice
  • lgbtqia caucus
diverse group of students holding a globe together

Too often, campus inclusivity, diversity, belonging, and equity (IDBE) work is housed in one building, the work of a specific person or group of people, or covered with a singular program or training.

“Diversity work is often thought of as programmatic, but there are ways to systematize that work,” said Chris Woods, Director, New York University (NYU) LGBTQ+ Center. “We can make it more sustainable, so that it lives beyond an individual person or program.”

Focus on student success

NYU has made policy changes around gender identity, preferred names, and pronouns on their campus. Through each iteration of the process, staff learned more about how to break down silos and think about changes through a systems perspective.

“These changes are for all students’ success,” said Holly Halmo, Director, Student Success Initiatives at NYU and co-chair of AACRAO's LGBTQIA Caucus. “All students deserved to be called by their preferred name and proper pronouns.” 

Widening the lens in this way addresses campus-wide shared values, and can help overcome early resistance to IDBE initiatives. Halmo and Woods have collaborated to break down silos and foster inclusive systems at NYU that go beyond Safe Zone training. 

More than a Safe Zone

Safe Zone training is a national program teaching foundational concepts and raising awareness about LGBTQ+ inclusivity. NYU offers its own version of the training to help people better understand their own gender and sexuality through introspection, learn about inclusive language, and better support trans and nonbinary communities.

However, Safe Zone training is no guarantee of safe space. It’s an educational tool and a step in the right direction. But the work of supporting LGBTQ+ students must go deeper if it’s going to truly make a difference.

For example, professionals reading AACRAO’s Gender Identity Expression report may consider themselves “good,” and want to do “better,” or may be at “better” and want to strive for “best.” If so, it’s time to do the true cross-campus collaborative work of building IDBE into the system.

Instigating collaboration: Be proactive

Using the NYU rollouts as a case study, Halmo and Woods will discuss strategies for working across departments to move the needle on your campus in their half-day workshop “Understanding LGBTQ+ Students and Partnering Across Campus for Their Success ” at AACRAO 2020. Early bird registration ends February 28.

Workshop attendees will leave with an action plan to take back to their institution, including information about best practices, how to initiate conversations about change, who needs to be in the room, and concrete next steps you can take on your campus. 


AACRAO's bi-weekly professional development e-newsletter is open to members and non-members alike.