Leah: Are safe spaces a dangerous choice for campuses?

Leah Ulatowski, Editor-in-Chief

By Leah Ulatowski


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A recent piece in the New York Times by Judith Shulevitz criticized the idea of safe spaces on campuses, which are essentially areas, events or employee offices where certain groups, specifically LGBTQ+ and feminists, are free to express themselves without fear of ideas that may cause discomfort. I agree wholeheartedly with the piece.

Shulevitz was particularly disapproving of Brown University for allowing a safe space complete with “coloring books, Play-Doh and bubbles” when a debate on rape culture was scheduled because the woman discrediting rape culture may “invalidate” individuals. Even as someone who stands in the middle when it comes to rape culture, believing victim blaming occurs yet disagreeing with the notion that all men are predisposed to rape, I believe this was the wrong course of action.

While critics say Shulevitz chose extreme scenarios, there is no way of limiting free speech “just a little bit.” Once the idea of safe spaces is allowed to pervade a campus, there are no guidelines as to when it has crossed the line to sheltering individuals or what constitutes the violation of a designated “safe area.” The initiative is extremely vague and underdeveloped yet incredibly powerful in its ability to create a community where no one explores ideas against the liberal agenda.

Safe spaces are demeaning and promote a culture of fragile adults. As a grown woman, I would be highly offended if someone offered to shelter me from an opinion by providing me with Oreos as if I was a toddler. I would be ashamed if a professor promised to never politely express an idea contrary to mine because it might derail me.

I have already been disappointed by people coming to me in hysterics because they disagreed with my opinion and cannot imagine how the problem would spread if safe space events were created every time I opened my mouth. On a side note, I did not require (nor was I offered) a safe space as a result of such confrontations.

Finally, safe spaces are exclusionary and fail in their purpose by only catering to some of the most protected classes on American campuses today. It’s no secret that higher education is a haven for progressives. Maybe the world is not always kind to LGBTQ+ and feminists, but campuses are generally accepting places for them and sometimes the opposite for traditionalists.

What if a student’s family business has gone under after declining to bake a gay wedding cake and he or she desires to confide in a Lakeland employee but sees a safe space poster plastered on the office door, glaring at him or her as if to say the person within is yet another individual who may not sympathize with such experiences?

For some reason, our generation believes the solution to hatred is silencing certain ideas or sheltering people from them. Our campuses would be better places if we put as much effort into educating people on how to debate without hurling insults and to accept that someone disagreeing with you is not akin to undermining you as a human being.