By Melissa Mitchell For many faculty and staff staff members and students who identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, the UI campus "does not convey a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that is necessary for successful and effective academic pursuits," according to Terri Rhodes, a clinical counselor at the Counseling Center at McKinley Health Center. "Coming out" in the campus environment, which Rhodes said "mirrors the larger society in that it oppresses and devalues gay, lesbian and bisexual people," often requires not only courage but support. To help provide that support, McKinley's Counseling Center created the Ally program. "It came to our attention that there were a number of individuals who did not identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, but who felt strongly about ending homophobia and heterosexism, and who wanted to find a way to contribute to that effort," she said. The Ally program was launched in the spring of 1994 to enlist the support of such people. The UI's program is modeled after a similar one at Ball State University, Rhodes said. Initially, the UI's program started small, with a campaign that challenged Student Affairs staff members to " 'come out' as Allies by wearing a button that would identify them as supportive and affirming of gay, lesbian and bisexual people,"she said. The button was a pink triangle with the word "Ally" imprinted on it. From there, organizers decided to expand the program by creating a campuswide network of faculty and staff allies. Rhodes said about 100 faculty and staff members are currently part of the network. "The Ally network is intended as a resource to both the gay, lesbian and bisexual community of staff and students and to the individuals identified as part of the network for referral and information purposes," Rhodes said. To become part of the Ally network, individuals must be nominated by students, faculty, staff or others who have "experienced them to be affirming of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues," Rhodes said. Nominees then attend a workshop that equips them with strategies for "combatting homophobia/heterosexism" and for becoming effective allies, she said. The workshop also addresses campus climate issues and encourages participants to explore their own attitudes, perceptions, beliefs and biases. Rhodes said Allies are "invited to make an active commitment to the network by working against homophobia/heterosexism by placing their names on a public resource list and by attending future Ally programs." Additionally, she said, Allies are encouraged to meet periodically to "support one another in their efforts toward making this a better campus for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community." The next workshop takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. April 21 in 407 Illini Union. Individuals interested in attending or learning more about the program may contact Rhodes at 333- 8360.