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Gator Ally Program Origins & History

Gator Ally

The UHD Gator Ally Program began as the UHD Safe Zone Program, which grew out of the frustration of several faculty and staff members with the difficulty in keeping a student LGBTQ organization successfully in operation for more than a semester or two at a time. When the Center Director first began working at UHD in August, 2007, there was no student LGBTQ organization at UHD, and this on a campus with a student population of about 11,000 at the time, located in the downtown area of the fourth-largest city in the United States. This was an unacceptable situation.

The Center Director—then a faculty member—sponsored two iterations of a student LGBTQ organization over the next few years, both of which dissolved once their leaders graduated. The Director, along with several faculty and staff members who were disturbed by this trend, formed a "UHD LGBTQ Allies Steering Committee" in the Spring Semester of 2009 with a view to providing a faculty and staff program whose mission in part would be to provide a foundation of support for a yet-to-be-formed student LGBTQ organization. After looking at best practices at a number of other universities, the committee decided to develop a Safe Zone Program. The program took shape over the summer and into the first weeks of the fall semester of 2009, with the first training offered on October 9, 2009.

The Safe Zone Program was successful in achieving the original goal of the UHD LGBTQ Allies Steering Committee, which was to provide a foundation for a long-lasting student LGBTQ organization on campus. By 2011, a student organization—also called Safe Zone—was up and running. In 2015, the members of Safe Zone voted unanimously to change the name of the organization to Stand Out!, in part to differentiate the organization from the UHD Safe Zone Program. The student organization has been active on campus ever since—currently under the acronym "SAGA"—and is poised to continue going strong as it has successfully passed through multiple changes in student leadership, one of the most serious challenges to the persistence of student organizations.

The development of the UHD Safe Zone Program over the summer of 2009 coincided with the beginning of Dr. William Flores' tenure as President of UHD in July, 2009. President Flores was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Safe Zone Program, in part due to his experience at two other campuses that experienced anti-diversity-related incidents, one targeting an LGBTQ student. Having seen other institutions deal with such incidents, President Flores' approach at UHD was consistently proactive. His response to a friendly email from Dr. Hudson notifying him of the upcoming first Safe Zone Training was that he believed "... the entire campus should be a SafeZone and ... we should work to create a supportive and welcoming environment for all students."

In fall 2019, to coincide with the name change of the Center for Student Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Director changed the name of the UHD Safe Zone Program to the UHD Gator Ally Program. The primary reason for this name change was to reflect the measurable improvement in campus climate at UHD for LGBTQ members of the campus community, and to move from a strategy of establishing "safe zones" on campus—which suggests that other areas of campus are "unsafe"—to a strategy of recognizing the entire campus as by definition a safe space, and to provide a growing cadre of LGBTQ-supportive allies to carry on the work of providing support for LGBTQ members of the UHD campus community.

Last updated 5/16/2021 6:25 PM