Stop demanding safe spaces

Sarah Harris

How do you define a safe space on a college campus?

The only place I could find a credible definition is on Advocates for Youth, where it is defined as a place where anyone can feel relaxed and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcomed or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability.

In my opinion, a safe space is defined as a place where you go alone, to be alone, because safe spaces do not exist.

The fact that people demand safe spaces bothers me because they’re only a necessity in a hypersensitive society, which is not something people should strive for.

It’s pure ignorance to the fact that we don’t live in an accepting society, and as nice as that would be, it doesn’t exist.

Let’s say you’re in a safe space, and you have someone who is being fully expressed as a homosexual, and another person being fully expressed as a homophobic, and they are in the same space; who do you tell to leave? In my opinion, safe spaces are designed to be inclusive, yet at the same time they are inherently exclusive.

The controversy of providing safe spaces erupted two weeks ago at Yale after an email was sent out by Erika Christakis, associate master of Silliman residential college, discussing the University’s action on addressing culture appropriation on Halloween. A master of a residential hall is responsible for the “physical well being and safety of students in the residential college, as well as for fostering and shaping the social, cultural, and educational life and character of the college,” according to Yale’s website.

A video surfaced recently on YouTube of Yale students protesting on their campus. In the video, a female student approached Nicholas Christakis, master of Silliman College. Instead of calmingly expressing her opinion about the email he and his wife wrote to the students, she started screaming in his face—and over what? For the master not creating a so-called “safe space”.

In the email, Christakis takes an opposing stance to the University, basically telling the students to quit trying to be social justice warriors, and if they see something they don’t like to either look away or to say something. She tells her residents that American universities “were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.”

The most interesting part of her email is her an opinion on where the censoring is coming from: “And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity – in your capacity – to exercise self censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?”

Have you, as a student, lost your ability to ignore or reject things that trouble you? My perspective is that we cannot create a safe space anywhere because everything you do can be offensive to someone else; does this mean we must stop being who we are and stop everything we do because it can be offensive? If people don’t learn how to brush things off or come to the understanding that not everyone will like you or understand you, you will not survive in this society. People are different and will have opposing opinions, and thank goodness we do. Can you imagine a world where everyone agreed? The “Opinion” section in this newspaper wouldn’t even exist.

The Yale student yells at Christakis’s husband, demanding him to “Be quiet!” as she screams at him for not creating a “safe space”. He and his wife’s email is telling the students to express themselves and to have discussions about the costumes or to turn away. The student misses the point entirely by silencing the professor and by screaming in his face.

These students want to be able to protest on campus, hence expressing themselves in public, while simultaneously demanding the deans and masters to create safe space where they can hide from the world and be who they are without having social disagreements. Wouldn’t you say that’s a tad contradicting?

I would hate to go to a university where my way of thinking wasn’t challenged. Wouldn’t you?