A safe space

Renee Rosenow

There are few people as dedicated to helping others, especially at such a young age, as senior Liz Crammond.

“Ever since I was little, I volunteered,” Crammond said. “My parents have always been very helpful and volunteers, so I think that I just learned that from them at an early age. I volunteered ever since I was in elementary school.”

She has also worked at a nursing home for many years.

Crammond is from the town of Portage, about 30 miles north of Madison.

“It’s not extremely racially diverse, so my parents were always adamant about taking us to Madison and seeing different cultures and different perspectives,” Crammond said. It was an experience that could’ve sparked her initial interest in helping others.

“I remember walking down State Street one time with my mom when I was little and seeing a homeless person for the first time,” Crammond said. “It was pretty eye-opening.”

Coming in as a freshman, Crammond knew she wanted to find a career helping people in the social work field, but she originally wanted to do work with people who have AIDS. Now she would like to mostly stick to working with the homeless.

“As I’ve gotten involved on campus and really gotten involved in my major I’ve learned a lot more and this is kind of become a population that I would like to work with,” she said.

There is another population, however, that she’s already been devoting her time to on the Eau Claire campus.

Bringing ‘Safe’ to Eau Claire

Crammond’s love for helping people is what has helped set up the “Safe Space” training sessions she led on campus several weeks ago.

“I love being involved on this campus and just getting to know what the campus consists of,” she said, adding “I think it’s an area lacking on our campus; the knowledge of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community,” she said. “I think it’s a huge aspect of diversity that’s often ignored.”

Traveling to Baltimore this summer, Crammond was educated on how to lead the “Safe Space” sessions.

“The entire organization is called ‘Campus Pride’ and it’s for LGBTQ leadership training,” Crammond said. “I really picked up a lot of skills to bring back ‘Safe Space’ training to Eau Claire.”

It was a week filled with workshops and a trip to Washington D.C. where she met people involved in that LGBTQ community.

She also worked with different organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I was really glad that I got to go. I was one of three allies, (or) straight people, who are supporters of the gay community and promote positive ideals about the community.”

Initially, she said the experience was overwhelming because she didn’t know anyone else, but it was beneficial because of the connections and friends she made along the way.

After questioning how diversity-friendly Eau Claire is, Crammond and several professors decided to conduct a survey to see just how friendly people view the campus.

“Our results really said the same thing, that they know there is a community but it’s not very out or open,” she said.

That’s one reason why “Safe Space” was started, as a means of reversing the general consensus of the campus, she said

Crammond thinks anyone can benefit from “Safe Space,” regardless of their sexuality.

“Not only does ‘Safe Space’ apply to LGBTQ people, it really applies to everyone,” she said. “Every student should have a safe space to go to and to provide a safe space to go for other students.”

After the first session, Crammond said everyone, as well as herself, were pleased with the outcome. The session was once offered in the 90s and people were excited to hear it was being offered again, she said.

“There’s a demand to start other sessions. We had to start a waiting list for our first student (session). Now we’ve gotten a lot of response to start the second one.”

The sessions allow only the first 25 interested students to go and after that they are put on a waiting list. Crammond anticipates keeping this number low to allow a more open atmosphere. However, she will plan more sessions so as to reach out to more people.

One issue addressed in the session was stereotypes of the LGBTQ community perpetuated by the media.

“Sometimes when you talk to people, they always equate being gay to ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ or ‘Project Runway,'” she said. “There are so many aspects of the queer community that somebody could be (learning).”

A diverse education

Crammond was no stranger to talking about diversity before the “Safe Space” training, though. She was a coordinator for the Pure Diversity Educators for two years. PDE focuses on more than just issues in sexuality, they are also concerned with topics in race, gender, disabilities, intercultural issues, and social justice issues.

PDE goes into classrooms, dorms and places in the community. Crammond particularly enjoyed going to a middle school in Altoona. There, she had classes participate in several diversity activities, one where students pretended they had a baby. Students were either assigned into the upper class, where they saw many advantages, or the lower class, where they saw the difficulties many families face and the reality of raising a child on a low income.

Crammond saw a lot of positive responses from students after doing these activities.

“I always enjoyed going into the middle school and interacting with the young kids because you really get to see their wheels turning and them thinking,” she said. “I think students at that age are often much more open-minded than college students can be. We always seem to have really great discussions.”

Crammond enjoyed telling kids about her own ideals and hearing what they had to say because she thinks they are less afraid of what their peers will think.

In addition to working with PDE, Crammond is also president of the Association of Student Social Workers. She particularly enjoys working at “Community Table,” where ASSW members cook for people of the community. She thinks it’s really rewarding being able to provide a hot meal to people in need.

Currently, ASSW is working on a dental drive, where they plan on bringing dental supplies to the Washington D.C. area later this year.

What the future brings

With plans to graduate this spring and move out east, Crammond wants to work in the Washington D.C. area to help the large homeless population. She has already been there seven times since starting college.

“D.C. is kind of my love right now . the world’s largest homeless shelter is in D.C., so it’s the hub of where the action is in my mind,” she said.

Crammond has plans to do much more than this, however.

“I want to do a lot,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to volunteer and support others. I think that will always be one way to help people. I think by going to D.C. and doing community organizing, that’s a really big way I will probably help people.”

Crammond also said she wants to go to law school for public law and get her masters degree in social work. She also hopes to one day be a staffer for a Senator or congressman and wants to eventually run for office.

As for the future of “Safe Space,” Crammond hopes she accomplished a few things.

After students and faculty have attended a “Safe Space” training, they have the option of putting up a sticker that invites students to speak with them if they need to. The sticker is a rainbow flag that says “UWEC Safe Space” on it.

“When that sticker is up, that means that it’s an open area that you can go and you should feel safe talking to that person about your sexuality, about really anything,” Crammond said. She hopes this causes people to be more open and more understanding of others.

“The number one thing I want to see is awareness of the LGBTQ community and be allies to them, because there are a lot of oppressive systems that prevent them from being exactly who they should be and being as open as they should be.” Crammond said. “I’d like to see the LGBTQ come and be even more predominant on our campus.”