Effect of Exposure to a Safe Zone Symbol on Perceptions of Campus Climate for Sexual Minority Students

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Abstract

This study investigated student perceptions of campus climate after brief exposure to a Safe Zone symbol. After responding to measures of traditional and modern homophobia, undergraduates (N = 265; 78% female, 80% white, 14% LGBTQ, 18–23 years old) were randomly assigned to read an excerpt from a fictitious course syllabus that either did or did not feature a Safe Zone symbol. Afterward, participants rated campus climate characteristics for sexual minority students. Participants who viewed a Safe Zone symbol reported more positive campus climate characteristics for sexual minority students than those who did not view a Safe Zone symbol. Exposure to the symbol was not associated with perceptions of negative campus climate characteristics. Analyses conducted within the subsample of students who did not personally identify as sexual minorities showed no evidence for a negative or “backlash” effect of exposure to a Safe Zone symbol. Although homophobia was not related to how participants responded to a Safe Zone symbol, those who reported greater modern homophobia perceived more negative campus climate characteristics than those who reported less modern homophobia. The current results provide initial experimental evidence that displaying Safe Zone symbols can promote inclusive, accepting perceptions of the campus community.

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