Safe Network continues to help students

One of Gannon University’s newest groups this year is the Safe Network, an alliance of people who have taken a pledge in order to support individuals who are struggling with their sexual identity.

Deacon Steve Washek said the group provides trained individuals who are competent to engage students, faculty and staff members who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, are questioning their sexual identity or are allied with them (GLBTQA).

In addition, he said it is for all those who wish to enter into confidential and non-judgmental supportive relationships by means of short or long-term conversation, dialogue or other supportive activities.

Washek, director of Campus Ministry and a trained ally, said that training of the first round of individuals began in early 2010 and that the network itself launched this past fall.

Overall, 20 allies operate in the Safe Network, and many are from different departments all across the campus.

He said he has a Safe Network logo on his office door which signifies that he has been trained, and that he is a safe person to talk to regarding GLBTQA issues.

Washek said it is necessary to have such a group on campus because of the isolation and alienation that many people feel when they are struggling with identity issues.

He said that we are all aware of the hate crimes that were committed last fall. The group was inspired by instances of hate crimes, including that of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate secretly recorded and live-streamed his sexual encounter with another man.

“These actions against people must stop,” he said. “We are called as a Catholic university to respect and give dignity to all individuals.”

Washek said that since the Safe Network was launched, feedback from the students, administration and faculty has been positive.

“I believe everyone recognizes the need to have a safe environment for all students to succeed,” he said. “I believe this is very much in line with our mission of a Catholic university.”

Chad Gauthier, a junior management information systems and theatre and communication arts major, said the network has helped Gannon become a safe environment.

“The Safe Network has helped Gannon by showing they are open to dialogue about issues concerning sexuality, providing a safe place for students to go and talk about those issues, and having staff trained is good for that discussion.

Some students, however, believe that the university needs to do more in promoting sexual identity. Tyler Babcock, a junior communication arts major, said it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but he said there is a weakness.

“I think it kind of implies the message that it’s only OK to express your sexuality in a safe and confined area, and I’m not really a fan of that,” he said.

Washek said that the network itself does not organize activities, but rather it is an alliance of certified individuals.

“It is people willing to support and talk to those who are struggling in a non-judgmental way,” he said.

Jessie Badach, program coordinator for the Center for Social Concerns, said that she is interested in becoming an ally of the Safe Network because it fits in well with Gannon’s mission.

She said that she thinks it is her responsibility to make sure that everyone feels safe and loved.

As far as what the program offers to Gannon, Badach said there are a couple things it offers.

“It offers a concrete, tangible network of support for students,” she said. “It also puts forward Gannon’s commitment to the well-being and safety of all students, which is something at the core of an educational institution that is helping students so that they are in a place where they can feel safe.”

Any student who is struggling with identity issues can go to any of the 20 allies associated with this group.

Pamphlets are available in the SOLD office and by the front desk of the Waldron Campus Center.


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