Happy Pride Month! Interview with Safe Zone Ally program co-founder Rick Nizzardini

Author: Kent Bravo
June 10, 2024
Two students marching in a parade stand in front of a hand-made sign saying "SF State Pride"
Photo Credit: Students in SF State's 2019 Pride Parade contingent

SF State participants marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade.

Nizzardini shares how the program makes a difference at SF State, why it’s important in current climate

Pride Month is celebrated every June to honor the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community, their history and the ongoing fight for their rights. To mark the moment this year, we spoke with Rick Nizzardini, Safe Zone Ally program co-founder and coordinating committee chair, to learn more about the program and how it’s making San Francisco State University a more inclusive place.

What is the Safe Zone Ally program?

The San Francisco State Safe Zone Ally program is a voluntary, unfunded campus program of trained students, faculty, staff and administrators who have completed an educational training to develop a greater awareness of issues affecting students of all genders and sexual identities. The program’s mission is to foster a welcoming, inclusive and equitable campus environment by building a support network for people of all gender and sexual identities. Safe Zone allies are active and visible volunteers who are open to talking to members of the LGBTQ+ community in a confidential and supportive environment. 

How are program members trained?

Safe Zone trainings and ongoing learning opportunities are presented through an intersectional, racial justice framework to encourage participants to engage in conversations about the impacts of heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism.​ Trainings are offered each semester and range from three to six hours.

What is the most memorable success story of the program during the time you’ve been involved?

The Safe Zone Ally Program is one of the longest-running LGBTQIA+ advocacy programs on our campus. We have raised awareness for issues related to gender-affirming facilities, appropriate and respectful teachings and conversations about gender in the classroom and workplace, and honoring and uplifting SF State’s queer community’s voices through programs, outreach and, above all else, education.

Several years ago, we were able to train the deans and chairs of all our campus colleges. We are incredibly proud that we have provided education to our University leaders on gender, sexuality, transphobia, intersectionality and the cross-section between queer rights and racial justice, so that they can incorporate queer-affirming educational practices in classrooms across our campus.

Why is it important to have such a program today on our campus?

Queer rights are under attack like never before during our lifetime. From bans on books that mention sexuality and/or gender, to the denial of gender affirming health care for adults and minors, to efforts to eliminate the free expression of drag artists in communities across the United States, political efforts on local and statewide levels are not only succeeding but having the effect of pushing queer people back into the shadows to find safety. Because of this, it is absolutely imperative that our voices are loud, proud and flourishing in community spaces.

Rick Nizzardini

Rick Nizzardini

We have to work together, queer people and all allies, to fight for equity, equality and social justice. We have to serve as a constant presence that says: We’re here. We matter. Our allied communities matter. And we deserve equal rights and respect.

Learn more about SF State’s Safe Zone Ally program.