No Safe Spaces. Part of the Whole

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Safe Spaces are a problematic idea for Universities. On one hand they give groups of people the ‘freedom’ to go somewhere and be themselves. On the other who gets to say what groups need a specific space on campus and why do they need a space for themselves. Safe Spaces are places where students who feel they have been marginalized by either their sex, ethnicity, religion or sexuality can go and be themselves (with other people like them) free from any metal or physical strain. But how do you go justifying the feeling of marginalization and present this feeling as a problem for the entire University to solve and not a sole issue.

There is an ideal in society to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. To give a voice for those that do not have a voice of their own. While a simple idea the acting of this is to give people who are marginalized in society the opportunity and to teach the abilities of equity for all. But that is all of society. When we simplify the area to Universities – where the fight for Safe Spaces is currently occurring. Then we have to look at what Universities and higher education represents. Universities are the next stage in academia, a challenge for people’s perceptions of the world and, for the development into adulthood. They are accessible for anyone at any time of their life, it is the independence of the student that dictates the role in which higher education will play in their life and the success the student will get from attending. Universities are a safe place to talk, to live, to experience and to attend. The understanding of intellectual freedom underlines the understanding for what information is presented and why it is presented. When we are presented information (opinions, facts and discussions) that we do not like we know that they are not being shown to us for the purpose of mental harm but for intellectual enlightenment. To further understand why we have our point-of-view and why we do not have the point-of-view of others. The intention is not malicious but a safe engagement of information we otherwise would not engage with ourselves. Our lecturers, tutors, peers and other academics that we share the higher education experience with are debates, challenges and utilities to further get a sense of self-understanding and self-growth. Every University has an understanding of what is expected and what is understood even when it is not said so clearly.

Safe Spaces are challenging this representation of Universities and other higher education institutions by condemning that they are not safe, that there is a significant amount of students that are marginalized for who they are and nothing or very little is being done about it. These Safe Spaces are a solution to this perceived problem. The fights are in our Universities so the problem must be somewhere within. On the website the demands there is a list of at least 88 American higher education institutions that demand change for the systemic and structural racism that they believe is apparent on campuses. Under each school there are a number of demands that are expected to be undertaken on each campus to make up for and fix this injustice. Though it is one thing to believe the outcry of the student population it is another to provide adequate empirical evidence to support this claim – which has yet to happen. For each demand being made there is no specific understanding to how the demand should be done within the university. There are demands calling out certain faculty members of the Universities and demand that they create and enforce the plan that is then to be upheld. This pressure on Universities to abide by these demands has been having a negative effect on the University. University of Missouri for example has had instances revolving around faculty members and student protests. This barrage of bad publicity caused by groups pushing for justice has crippled the University. Missouri has faced a significant decline in student enrolments, a decline in alumni donations, the athletic football team has resigned, faculty members are getting sacked for partaking in the commotion irresponsibly and faculty members are also resigning if they are caught against the loud and vocal group. The University is a reflection of the students. When the students have caused a ruckus in their own University they are condemning the entire University to the public even for those who are not involved.

To create Safe Spaces on campus is to say that the campus is unsafe. That there are problem areas for certain minority groups that are a constant occurrence. For a university to have such a space is unimaginable – a space where there is constant aggression and offensive material to specific groups of people. Where is this space? When we give people areas in which they can escape to we separate the student body. When the entire University is a safe space then the entire student body can be a source for empowerment, confidence, communication and of course safety. But when we separate the student body into identity, then we have people engaging with only certain identities. We also force out identities of people by giving them a reason to feel marginalized. When we give people a reason to not feel like a piece of a whole collective they are automatically on the outside and that is not what Universities are about.

The phrase “Safe Space” has negative connotations attached to it – residing from the identity politics popularized by Intersectional Feminism Safe Spaces are seen as places to escape to when someone cannot handle some form of mental strain. The physical build of Safe Spaces has been described as a place where people can colour in, calm down reading a book, watch videos of puppies playing and escape from what caused them harm. While this is an escape it does not prove to be a solution to the problem, merely a temporary quick fix. What ailed the person can still happen, the person still has to leave the safe space and dealing with the issue at hand can still arise. This understanding provides the connotation that the inability to find a solution to the mental anguish that people will face at University is nothing but hypersensitivity.

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