Perspective from the panel

Sarah Harris

Never did I think that one of my columns would lead to such a discussion. After I wrote an opinion piece called “Stop demanding safe spaces,” (from the Nov. 18 issue of the Chronicle) students began posting on social media and talking around campus about safe spaces. This conversation led to the panel discussion on the topic of safe spaces. It’s been an intellectually challenging couple of weeks to say the least.

Last Friday’s panel discussion took place last-minute, but for an event that wasn’t advertised heavily, many people attended. It was pleasant to see students, faculty and administration (Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson included) come and show interest in this topic.

After reflecting on the panel, I have concluded some thoughts that I felt I should share.

I would have liked to see the panel discuss more of the topic rather than my article and my ability to do my job as a resident assistant. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have been on the panel, allowing room for different ideas and giving a voice to people who have not been able to express themselves yet. I would have liked to see the audience be able to participate more and leave room at the end for audience members to ask their questions, rather than writing them in anonymously and having the moderators filter through them.

Panels such as this one need to happen more often at Quinnipiac. Rather than having these conversations on the internet or behind screens such as Facebook and Yik-Yak, we should talk about them in person. Although we are a generation of technology users, we need to be willing to converse about difficult topics face to face.

If you’re scared to express your opinions because they might be different from others’, then that is when you should share it. It not only challenges you to speak up and become a better public speaker, but it also challenges the people you are with. Everyone’s personal experiences bring something new to the table and it’s important to hear other people’s perspectives.

If I had not attended an open discussion about race on campus Nov. 17 where an Islamic student discussed her experiences, I would not have realized what a Muslim-American student went through during the Paris attacks. I never viewed the attacks from her perspective. Although she was nervous to speak, it opened my eyes to what she was going through. I applaud her for that.

The conversation about safe spaces won’t ever be over until we agree on what a safe space is, which may not be possible. The idea is there, but the fact that you can’t open up a dictionary and find a clear definition leaves room for more debate. This is a good thing. It creates room for people to express what their idea of a safe space is and why they need one.

And to reiterate a thought in my previous column: always challenge each other. If I weren’t challenged after writing my last article, I would not have been given the chance to question and alter some of my own beliefs. But there comes great responsibility with challenging people’s opinions. We all live different lives and have different experiences, so you must be conscious of how the other person will perceive your opinion. In this case, take time to listen and hear where they are coming from, engage them and then share your own experiences. Discuss your opinion and support it. We can have these discussions while being kind and respectful to each other.

Keep up the discussion, Quinnipiac.