The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) is in the process of implementing a new training program for faculty and staff seeking to support LGBTQ+ students, entitled The Kenyon Pride: Safe Space Ally Training Program.
Unlike previous trainings, it will be broken into four hour-long workshops focusing on different aspects of the LGBTQ+ experience at Kenyon. Topics include terminology, historical and cultural importance, legal protections and identifying resources on campus.
A soft launch of the first workshop occurred late last week, with various faculty and staff in attendance. All four sessions will be offered during this upcoming summer. Each subsequent academic semester will also feature all four sessions at least twice.
Timothy Bussey, Assistant Director of ODEI, described the training as an entryway into discussing LGBTQ+-specific experiences among faculty and staff, meant to inspire further thought and individualized application.
“The whole program is aimed at making sure that anyone in the higher ed setting has the tools needed to be a comprehensive and thorough ally to the LGBTQ+ community,” Bussey said.
Each session allows time for questions and interactive engagement as a method of bringing participants into the discussion. “I think when you have a training environment where people feel comfortable asking the questions that come into their mind, that’s really the goal of having a training like this: to provide the information, but also to show how nuanced it is,” Bussey said.
According to Bussey, the soft launch of the first workshop had promising turnout and engagement. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Simon Garcia, who attended, said that faculty and staff from a wide range of demographics were present. “Usually, whenever there is some kind of event that is based around equity, diversity and inclusion in the classroom,” Garcia said, “white, cisgender, male faculty are underrepresented, hugely underrepresented, but here, that was not the case.” Faculty from various departments and at different stages in their Kenyon careers attended as well. “It was a good representation among different demographic categories. That was an encouraging thing,” Garcia said.
Garcia also appreciated the separation of the training into four sections. “It is nice to think, ‘Oh, I can build up these advising skills over time, throughout the year,’ instead of trying to remember something that you’ve only heard once per year,” he said. “If it’s spread out, you have ‘Oh, okay, here’s some little steps I can take and then I can be reminded of it, doing it.’”
Looking to the future, Garcia said that he would like to see firmer instruction for faculty on issues of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Because current faculty and staff must opt into this training, he worries it could become self-selecting, with those who most need its resources failing to come. “Maybe if things are mandatory, maybe a couple people would grumble about being there, but at least they would be there,” Garcia said.
Bussey addressed this need for wider involvement as well. “The expectation that we have, of course, is that we’d like to see as many faculty and staff as possible engage in the training,” he said. Alongside campus-wide trainings, ODEI may work with departments to offer specific portions of the training or other individualized resources.
The training serves only as one part of a larger conversation. “I think the overarching goal I have for this training is for faculty and staff to really think about how they have to continue challenging themselves to learn,” Bussey said, “And really be open to considering how their best practices to support queer and trans students, as well as other diverse demographics, has to evolve over time.”