Saddleback’s Hernandez-Bravo heads up ‘Safety Net’ support from faculty

A Safety Net poster in the window of an instructor’s office is what signifies his or her participation in the program.

A Safety Net poster in the window of an instructor’s office is what signifies his or her participation in the program. (Joey Clark)

Due to the leadership of Carmenmara Hernandez-Bravo, co-chair of the international languages department and Spanish instructor at Saddleback College, students can now confide in the volunteer faculty participating in the “Safety Net” program.

The idea of the Safety Net program began when Donald Trump was elected president late last year. With the introduction of a new presidential era, fear and uncertainty swept across the nation.

That was when Hernandez-Bravo, who also co-chairs the Equity and Diversity Committee, fought to put this Safety Net policy in place on the Saddleback campus.

“When Trump was elected, students started coming to me and were in horrible shape,” Hernandez-Bravo said. “They were scared and they were worried. Then when the Muslim ban was put into place, again, the students were in horrible shape. So we got together with Equity and Diversity for an emergency meeting and we decided that we need to have safe places for the students to come and talk about these issues if they wish, or so we can provide referrals.”

Since the Trump era started apprehensions about race, culture, sexual orientation, and gender identity have burst into the spotlight. These issues are now being talked about everywhere through all walks of life in our country more than they ever have before.

With the implication of the Safety Net policy on our campus, any student with any background can go to any volunteer faculty with any distress, concerns, or issues they may be facing, whether it is on school grounds or not.

“Everything is confidential if they come to talk with me,” Bravo said. “If I have to comfort a student, or whatever information they bring up to me remains between me and the student, and if I cannot help, I can provide referrals to someone that can.” 

Obviously there is a line drawn where the instructor has to take action with a problem a student may be having. Bigger issues such a sexual assault, abuse, or domestic violence has to be intervened with.

“No no, that stuff is not confidential,” Bravo said. “If an issue like that is brought up to me anywhere on campus I have to report it.”

Students are finding this concept to be a perplexing one.

Mackenzie Quinn, a communications major here at Saddleback College felt the idea was a good one with a positive intention, but that there are a few hiccups.

“Personally I think it is a great concept, however I feel it puts a lot of responsibility in the hands of the professors who volunteer, they might hear things from students that they are not prepared to help with,” Quinn said. “But for the most part, if anybody has any issues or insecurities, why would a college professor you may or may not know be the first person who you’d seek advice from.”

To help better understand the changes this Safety Net program would bring among instructors, Cristy Brenner of the geography department shared her thoughts.

“I have always thought of my office as a safe haven for students to come and talk about the class, struggles academically, and struggles in their personal lives,” Brenner said. “Being apart of the program is great, but just having the sign in my door doesn’t change anything, I’ll always allow my students to come in and talk to me about whatever they wish to bring up.”

A Safety Net poster in the window of an instructor’s office is what signifies his or her participation in the program.

Ultimately it is up to the individual faculty to decide whether or not to participate in this new program, and whether or not they are prepared to comfort students and offer help. Participating faculty also need to have a line of referrals set up so that if the issue brought up, is out of their ability to address, they’ll have to be able to refer the student to someone on or off campus who can.