The Daily Gamecock

Student Senate bill mandating Safe Zone training for all SG members passes in landslide

<p>Sponsors of the Safe Zone bill, SBL (107) 20, address the Student Senate. It passed with 22 in favor, two against and four abstaining. </p>
Sponsors of the Safe Zone bill, SBL (107) 20, address the Student Senate. It passed with 22 in favor, two against and four abstaining. 

Student Senate passed a bill Wednesday evening requiring all Student Government members to take Safe Zone ally training, to be put into effect next year.

After intense debate — occasionally incurring the intervention of Student Body Vice President Lee Goble —the bill passed in a landslide, 22 voting for the measure and two against, with four abstentions.

Sen. Nick Vera, a fourth-year English student and supporter of the measure, applauded the bill's passing as common sense.

"We already have [Safe Zone training] on campus, so why not utilize it to its fullest potential?" he said. "I have friends that identify with the LGBTQ community, so I feel like I'm supporting them. They are my constituents and I just try to reflect the student body as best I can."

Despite the overwhelming support for the vote, the debate dragged on for over an hour. Sen. Zachary Kirby, a fourth-year representative from the College of Education, said that it would be much more inclusive to create an overarching sensitivity training program instead of using one specifically directed towards LGBTQ identities.

"You guys were elected with power," he said, addressing the senate. "You have the power to create any bill you want. I'm fully there to start a bill for full inclusive training, but I don't want to be the Senate that takes the small step and uses the excuse of 'well, that's what's there in front of us now.'"

Sen. Byron Thomas, a fourth-year public relations student, couched his argument against the bill in biblical language.

"I love everyone. I personally believe the best person that can teach me how to be sensitive towards others and to learn about others is Jesus Christ," he said. "Now, that's my personal belief. I don't believe anyone can give training to feel a certain way about another group because my God tells me to love everyone. And that's what I'm going to do."

Supporters of the bill deflected arguments proposing Safe Zone training wasn't necessary by framing the argument in terms of information, not belief. 

Sen. Audriana Dubose, a management student, said that mandatory Safe Zone training is about educating SG members about ways to provide resources to LGBTQ students. 

"It's not about love or beliefs, it's about resources," she said. "I can love you, but I don't know where to tell you to go to get more information or to get help. This isn't about teaching to love, it's about 'what do we have here on campus for these people when they come to us.'"

After the bill takes effect next fall, senators will have a "grace period" of two missed Safe Zone training sessions. If they miss a third, they will be up for impeachment.