People might think it’s unusual for The Citadel to offer a program designed to educate the campus community about the needs of gay students and faculty members, said Julie Lipovsky, the military college’s assistant provost for diversity initiatives.

But the program, called Safe Zone, demonstrates the school’s commitment to non-discrimination, and to providing a safe campus for everyone, she said.

It’s part of the school’s larger diversity initiative, she said.

Jen Bennett, who earned a master’s degree in clinical counseling from the Citadel Graduate College, launched the program last year.

It consists of a workshop with a panel presentation on issues lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face, and how best to help them, she said. The program also includes a website of campus and other resources.

Bennett said she doesn’t think it’s surprising that the school is offering the program. The world has changed in recent years, and many people are more accepting of others who might have a different sexual orientation. “If you told me 10 years ago that they were doing this at The Citadel, I could have been surprised,” she said.

But the school last year started a Gay Straight Alliance group on campus, she said, and it seemed appropriate to also develop and offer the Safe Zone training.

Lipovsky said people who are members of sexual minority groups sometimes need help finding resources. They often are victims of violence, she said, and are at higher risk for suicide.

“We know the reality of life for sexual minorities,” Lipovsky said. “An uninformed campus is potentially unsafe.”

She said she didn’t know whether Citadel students faced a greater or lower level of risk than students at other colleges and universities.

Bennett said that about 100 people, mostly faculty and staff members, have participated in the three training sessions the school has offered. She is planning to hold another training session in late October, and she expects more students to attend that event.

Lipovsky said many people attend the training simply to learn about the needs of lesbians and gays. The school focuses on training principled leaders, she said. Graduates need to know about many different kinds of people to lead in a diverse world.

“This is not advocacy,” Lipovsky said. “We are not trying to change people’s beliefs.” The school simply is trying to create a safe and inclusive environment.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.