West Virginia College Urges Faculty To Ditch The Terms ‘Husband’ And ‘Wife’

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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A college in rural West Virginia hosted a safe space training workshop that suggested faculty not use the terms “husband” or “wife,” and taught them about “heterosexual privilege” and the correct language to use when addressing LGBTQ individuals.

Public Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, recently conducted a “safe space training” for faculty, consisting of presentations, quizzes, and games advocating sensitivity in the classroom. In one of the quiz slides, the university encourages faculty to call “someone’s significant other” a “partner, spouse, significant other” or “mate.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Morgan Conley)

Slide from safe space training (Photo: Courtesy of Morgan Conley)

Other slides addressed pronouns and terms like “cisgender” and “pansexual.”

(Photo: Courtesy: Morgan Conley)

Slide from safe space training (Photo: Courtesy of Morgan Conley)

The safe space training initiative did not come from students, but from faculty, mental health specialist Morgan Conley told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Conley mentioned with surprise that the school’s town had performed well in the country with respect to treatment of the LGBTQ community.

“A lot of West Virginia is really rural,” explained the mental health specialist. She referenced a stereotype wherein people from Appalachia and the Bible Belt have not been as inclusive or tolerant of LGBTQ individuals.

While she distanced herself from personally believing this generalization, Conley suggested that a disparity in access to resources might account for a difference in treatment.

Conley explained in Marshall’s student newspaper that the safe space training included a quiz in which faculty members answer anonymous questions about “vocabulary and things like that” with clickers.

“Heterosexual privilege is a group discussion activity where we break up into groups,” said the mental health specialist, describing another segment of the event. “They have a list of privileges that most heterosexuals have in a relationship. You have to pick so many privileges, but you can’t have them all.”

When speaking with TheDCNF, Conley elaborated on “heterosexual privilege,” arguing that, for example, straight people may be more easily accepted into their religious communities than LGBTQ individuals. The mental health specialist said participants in the safe space training played a game in which they could purchase heterosexual privileges with fake money.

“We want people to have a better understanding of our students, no matter how they identify,” said Carla Lapelle, associate dean of student affairs. “We have such a huge variety (of students) and if we don’t recognize the differences in people, then we make language mistakes that make them uncomfortable.”

Information used in the safe space training was derived from The Safe Zone Project, the University of South Dakota Safe Zone Training, and North Dakota State University Safe Zone Ally Training.

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