North Texas Daily

Students petition for ally training at orientation

Students petition for ally training at orientation

Students petition for ally training at orientation
December 03
08:56 2013

Michelle Tendai Bushe / Intern Writer

A team of students in an introduction to women’s studies class created a petition asking UNT to provide an ally training program at new student orientation.

According to the UNT website, ally training is a program offered by the university for students, staff and faculty that trains and educates students to create a safe environment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community.

“What ally training does is discuss definitions and what different terms and identities mean. It teaches you ways to talk about different things with the LGBT community,” said English senior Maggie Page, a member of the group introducing the petition.

Page said they created an ally training petition for a group project because they wanted to do something to help the LGBT community on campus.

“It is useful to alleviate possible tensions on campus and make the campus safer for the LGBT community,” she said.

Information science junior Laurel Alexander said she likes the project because she grew up in a conservative environment where LGBT issues were not discussed.

“I was excited about the project because I know people in the LGBT community who have had bad experiences due to lack of knowledge of what is appropriate and what is not,” she said.

Both Page and Alexander said there is not always a lot of understanding of the LGBT community at the university.

“A lot of students come from different places and may not know about certain issues,” Alexander said. “Ally training makes it easier to get it out in the open – this is what you should and shouldn’t do.”

UNT offers basic and advanced ally training. The program was launched in spring 1999 with a team of faculty and staff through various university departments.

The university currently offers the training a few times each semester. UNT hosted a session in September, October and November this fall.

“I think everyone should have an opportunity to become an ally,” said Aldo Afaro Mendoza, Multicultural Center senior diversity trainer and risk, insurance and financial services senior. “I do not feel ally training should be something you have to do, but it should be something you want to do to better serve the UNT community.”

Alexander said the group does not want to make the training mandatory at orientation, they just want it to be available for interested students.

“Ally training supports UNT’s mission of providing a culturally diverse and mutually respectful environment where every member of the university community can feel safe, respected and accepted,” Mendoza said.

Alexander said the current resources available are great but because of students’ unusual schedules not everyone is able to attend ally training, which is why having the option at freshman orientation would be beneficial.

Through social media, tabling events and some professors sending out messages in their classes they have gathered 180 of their 500 needed signatures.

“We haven’t had anyone come up to us and be offended, but we have had a lot of questions,” Page said. “People who didn’t know what Ally Training was stuck around [at tabling events] to find out and ask questions.”

Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Melissa McGuire said she has heard about the petition but has not been approached about it yet.

“We are always willing to hear from students on what they think should be included in orientation,” McGuire said. “There will probably have to be some negotiation on both parts.”

Page said the group decided to wait until they get at least 500 signatures before approaching the university with a proposal.

“Before implementing anything into orientation we have to think about effectiveness for the students, the number of facilitators we have, the number of students attending and space availability,” McGuire said.

Freshman orientation currently includes some education about the LGBT community, McGuire said.

There could be other options that can be discussed, such as possibly having the program available during First Flight Week, the first week of school where the university hosts programs to welcome new students to campus.

The petition is available at www.change.org/petitions/install-ally-training-for-freshman-orientation.

Feature photo: Information science junior Laurel Alexander started a petition on the form-a-petition website Change.org for the incorporation of “Ally Training” to freshman orientation activities to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and pansexual guidance for students to ensure that UNT is a safe space for the LGBT community. Photo courtesy of Laurel Alexander’s Facebook page. 

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