February 20, 2008

U Arkansas Ombuds Creates "Safe Zones" for LGBTQ Community

The Ombuds Office at the University of Arkansas has established the Safe Zone Allies Program to provide a safe environment for students and employees to share their concerns without fear of being judged based on their sexual orientation. According to Sue Theiss, Ombuds Office director, "When someone enters the office of an ally with the Safe Zone Allies logo on their door, the person entering knows the ally respects and supports equality for everyone and will listen to their concerns without judging who they are." Participants come from across campus and display the Safe Zone Allies logo, a rainbow-colored razorback, to make students aware of their participation. Theiss said the program was motivated by a UA diversity task force finding that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students do not feel a sense of inclusion. (UA Traveler.)

Related posts: U of Arkansas Office of Student Mediation Changing Name to Ombuds Office; Texas Tech Ombuds to Help Administer Student Relief Funds.

My concern is that this program (with its worthy objectives) could lead some in the UA community to question the neutrality of the Ombuds Office. It seems the University could have established the Safe Zone Program through the Division of Student Affairs instead and accomplished the same goals.

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