The Daily Gamecock

'Stop the H8' week raises awareness for LGBT college community

LGBT awareness event promotes Safe Zone Ally program, acceptance

 USC’s Safe Zone Ally Project sponsored “Stop the H8” week activities promoting LGBT on-campus awareness in the Russell House on Tuesday.

A “Wall of Hate” was posted on the second floor of the Russell House where students could write any negative terms or phrases they have been called and, in contrast, a “Wall of Hope” where students could write about their commitment to removing prejudice they’ve experienced. The day also included face painting provided by certified Safe Zone Allies and a “Remembrance Gallery” where students could learn about the victims of LGBT hate crimes.

The events, which kicked off Monday and continue today on Greene Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., were planned after Campus Pride, a national non-profit organization that works to create safer college environments for LGBT students, conducted a recent survey that said one-third of LGBT students consider leaving their college or university every year because they do not feel comfortable or accepted.

Fourth-year English student Rebecca Troxell said she attended the event because she realizes the importance of acceptance.

“Every one of my best friends is gay and I know what they go through,” she said as she had “Stop H8” painted on her face. “As college students, we all are pretty accepting but I think we could be more so we could set an example to other campuses. There is definitely strength in numbers.”

Safe Zone project coordinator and third-year higher education graduate student Drew Newton said improving these numbers, must be a student effort.

“We need to make a stronger commitment to hope rather than pain,” Newton said. “These events are made to promote the Carolinian Creed and create more certified Safe Zone allies.”

A Safe Zone Ally is known as someone who serves as a safe source of support for resources and guidance both on and off campus. Newton said there are currently more than 500 allies on campus, and although the number of allies has doubled since last year, Newton is still not satisfied.

“500 is great, but in a campus this size we want 5,000,” he said. “More Resident Mentors are getting their staff trained and the momentum is growing across campus.”

Safe Zone Ally and second-year social work graduate student Kelly Herwig volunteered to paint faces on Tuesday and said it is important not to just spread awareness for the LGBT community but for anyone who needs help.

“We need to be more inclined to prevent things from happening like Tyler Clementi,” she said. Clementi was a Rutgers student who committed suicide after being videotaped during a sexual encounter.

As for the Ally certification, Herwig said she recommends it for everyone who is interested in helping others.

“It helps you better interact with everyone,” she said.

For those interested, there are two upcoming Safe Zone training sessions on campus: April 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. in Wardlaw College Room 126 and April 15 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Senate Chambers.

“The training is a fun and engaging way to get involved and it is never too late,” Newton said. “There [are] no moral concerns and it is done in a comfortable and safe environment.”

For more information or to find an ally on campus, visit