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Saint Mary’s resident assistants create safe spaces posters for display in Le Mans Hall

| Thursday, December 5, 2019

A piece of white computer paper stands out amidst a sea of bright decorations taped to Saint Mary’s residence assistant (RA) Ivol Frasier’s door in Le Mans Hall, reading, “My room is hate free,” and “Please help me keep Le Mans Hall safe for everyone.” Stickers of the LGBTQ pride flag and transgender pride flag, as well as the accessibility and feminist movement symbols, surround the message. Similarly decorated posters are tacked to other doors in the hallway.

Maeve Filbin | The Observer
Ivol Frasier, a junior RA at Saint Mary’s whose door is pictured here, recently helped begin a campaign whereby Le Mans Hall residents display signs on their doors encouraging tolerance and acceptance of underrepresented groups. Frasier has been working in collaboration with fellow RA Dorothy Le.

These posters were the result of a project led by Frasier, a junior RA, and other members of residence life.

“My room is hate free,” she said. “And so it’s just kind of enforcing that this is a safe space for me and for everyone else.”

RAs are asked to construct four programs exploring the core values of the College — learning, faith and spirituality, community and justice — over the course of the semester. Frasier said she and senior RA Dorothy Le decided to collaborate in a project highlighting diversity and justice in residence life.

“We were thinking, ‘What are some ways that we can promote diversity and justice that hasn’t really been done before?’” Frasier said. “Because there have been projects with cupcakes and diversity and you just decorate your cupcakes and that doesn’t really work.”

While scrolling through Pinterest boards, Frasier and Le found templates for dorm posters that read, “My room is hate free. Please help keep ____ Hall safe,” and were inspired to adapt them for their own project. They invited their residents to decorate the posters with stickers representing symbols of their own identity.

“And so we just thought it’d be a great way to get the overall feel of Le Mans to feel a little more welcoming and inclusive because I know that for me, as a member of the LGBT community, I know that coming here, I was very scared and very afraid and didn’t know if I’d be able to find my people,” Frasier said. “So I think it’s really important to have that visibility of the people who are safe and that Saint Mary’s is safe. And so we’re like, ‘OK, door decs, that’s a great idea.’”

The sticker sheets offered different designs with symbols for feminism, coexist and disability accessibility, Frasier said.

“One of my favorites is this world that’s held up by hands of different colors,” she said. “And so we tried to just include as many different areas of diversity as we could in these sticker sheets. And [the residents] could just pick and choose which ones they wanted to use. And almost everyone who came picked one of everything, and I’m like, ‘Look at you guys, spread the love.’ I love it.”

Frasier said she’s not exactly sure what a safe Le Mans Hall looks like, but hopes it would feel inclusive and accepting, while promoting the visibility of diverse populations on campus.

“So making it known that there are people of color who live here, or LGBT students who live here and just — not necessarily going out of your way — but making it visible and known that you’re safe to be who you are here,” she said.

At Saint Mary’s, a Catholic college with a predominantly white undergraduate enrollment, this inclusion has to be intentional, Frasier said.

“At least for me coming in as someone who’s a little different, it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be OK here’ to just kind of having that visibility and that awareness that other people are here,” she said. “They’re welcome here and they belong here.”

As a psychology major, Frasier said she has studied the dynamics between an “in” group and an “out” group.

“And so when you feel like you’re singled out or you feel like you’re different and everyone else sees you as different, you’re more likely to underperform,” Frasier said. “So it’s really important to celebrate and accept diverse populations, but then also let them know that that doesn’t define them. It’s really important to make sure that even though you are a little different than the stereotypical Belle, you still can be successful here and we see you and we support you.”

The posters began as an invitation to heightened awareness, and have now started conversations about safe spaces on campus, Frasier said.

“If you don’t know where a safe space is, you don’t know that it exists,” she said. “So even if it’s just another student or just a resident or just a friend, at least you know, you have that one place where you can go and celebrate yourself and be safe. And so even if you feel unsafe in the classroom, you know that you have one person you can go to and then I know having on my door I hope that it will bring people to me who feel unsafe or that they need help, so that I can direct them to resources and help them have a better college experience.”

Junior KatieBeth Hollman, sitting beneath the bisexual pride flag hanging over her desk, said the posters encourage acceptance in Le Mans Hall.

“I’m a member of the LGBT community … so personally, I like seeing all of the ‘Keep Le Mans Hall safe’ things because they’re really welcoming,” Hollman said. “And like I know a bunch of them have pride stickers on them, and so it kind of makes me feel welcome and makes me like not feel prejudiced against.”

Hollman and her roommate Mary Blake tacked their versions of the sign to their door to project that same sense of welcome to others in the hall, Hollman said.

“I put it on my door because I want other people to feel the same way,” she said. “So like if there’s someone else — and not even necessarily gay or bi or whatever — but even just like different beliefs or different mental illnesses or different disabilities, I want them to know that I’m supporting them, and that they aren’t being prejudiced against.”

Frasier said she thinks Saint Mary’s has made a lot of pushes towards inclusion, and highlighted clubs such as the Black Student Association and Sexuality and Gender Alliance. However, the College could do more to promote these groups on campus and make sure they are receiving the proper resources, Frasier added.

“But of course, there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “There’s always room for more.”

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About Maeve Filbin

Maeve is a senior studying political science and economics at Saint Mary's, as well as Journalism, Ethics and Democracy at Notre Dame. She serves as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Observer, and thinks everyone should support student journalism.

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