The Idea of “Safe Spaces” on Campus


This piece was written by a University of Pennsylvania junior, Alec Ward, back in April, long before campus speech became such ykrhrbsark
a major national story
. He found himself puzzling over the same thing I was pondering the other day: If students are unhappy, uncomfortable, or offended, isn’t that a very different thing from feeling literally “unsafe?” And yet “unsafe” is the word being used. Why?

This ran in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the college paper:

On Monday of last week, conservative writer David Horowitz gave a speech on Israel at the University of North Carolina during which he claimed that two U.S.-based pro-Palestinian campus groups, the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine, had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.

I have absolutely no idea whether or not that’s true or even supportable. What I do know is that a number of students who objected to Horowitz’s comments began a social media campaign around the slogan “Not Safe UNC” which, through a tumblr page, published — among other things — claims that Horowitz’s comments, because they made Muslim students feel targeted and marginalized, represented a threat to those students’ safety at the school.

I only heard about the incident by following a link from an unrelated article, and I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought except that I had noticed a slideshow in the ARCH building earlier that day which featured pictures of a number of students and quotations from them about “[their] safe space at Penn.”

I’d seen references to safety in academia twice in a few hours and now it was on my mind. I remembered that students who advocate for so-called “trigger warnings” when potentially offensive material will be covered in classes often talk about safety in the classroom. Half an hour’s Googling reveals instances in which students who oppose a speaker’s position claim that their views make a campus unsafe are far from a rarity.

I can’t help but think that the language of safety and unsafety just isn’t the right terminology for this conversation. I don’t doubt that students sometimes do experience intense and sincere negative emotional reactions to ideas which contradict or defy their own deeply held beliefs. Such emotional discomfort, however, doesn’t rise to the level of a threat to life or limb, which is the inevitable implication when we say that something is unsafe. Moreover, attaching rhetoric of unsafety to ideas which offend suggests that the proper reaction to such ideas is suppression or removal. After all, when a playground is unsafe for children, we tear it down….

Critical inquiry and intellectual progress toward truth — the philosophical cornerstones of the academic endeavor — demand the ability to challenge deeply held beliefs about right and wrong, truth and falsehood….The notion that such a process represents a danger, and the accompanying implication that it should be suppressed, has no more place on a college campus than the Torquemadean idea that we should ban scientists from looking into microscopes to try to better understand the structure of matter, lest what they find contradict our beliefs...

Read the rest here. And consider my earlier thought: That perhaps growing up in a culture that deems NOTHING is safe enough for kids, the kids grow up believing it. Like the TSA, they can’t distinguish between a nuke and a gnat, and hence are on red alert all the time. 

Or here’s one other theory that just dawned on me (and perhaps I’m slow): As I was searching for the image of a “safe space” to illustrate this story, up came many  logos for gay pride. I can understand gay and transgendered students feeling like they could be targeted for real, physical violence. So maybe they sought a “safe space” where they could be themselves — be “out” — without fear of getting roughed up. And then that search somehow spread to the larger community of college groups. I really am just not sure. – L


Maybe safety is TOO MUCH everybody's business.

Maybe safety is TOO MUCH everybody’s business.



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61 Responses to The Idea of “Safe Spaces” on Campus

  1. Anny November 15, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    Wikipedia entry on “safe space” confirms your theory above:

    Yes, my understanding is that the term “safe space” arose out of feminist and particularly LGBT movements that sought to create spaces where marginalized people are able to speak freely and be themselves without risking violence. These same movements recognized a strong link between obvious violence (e.g. assault) and the smaller acts of aggression that LGBT people were experiencing in their everyday lives – name-calling, threats, insults, and the like. The physical violence and the day-to-day aggressions (which are less severe individually but build up over time) have the same root, which is the devaluing of and/or hostility toward members of the target group. Yes, I think the idea of “safety” has been broadened to mean something more than the absence of physical danger. And if you’re part of a group that experiences a lot of harassment, it can be difficult to know when a relatively minor conflict might escalate.

    My impression is that the term “safe space” is still evolving and is used to mean several different things. It might mean a space where people are free from the threat of violence and harassment (ideally all spaces would be like this). I’ve also heard it used more specifically to refer to a space where thoughts can be voiced without the threat of criticism. It is NOT meant to be applied to all spaces but refers to a context designed to allow people to be more vulnerable than usual, often for the purpose of discussing a sensitive issue. I once participated in an online discussion group that specifically designated itself “not a safe space” because its organizers had limited ability to moderate comments and because they wanted to open the group to a broad audience. Designating it “not a safe space” meant that members of the group were agreeing to participate with the knowledge that they might encounter hateful comments.

  2. andy November 15, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    @Anny I have seen that used in relation of gender segregated space. There was demand that tech conferences should establish women only rooms which would be called “safe space”. Similarly, women only workshops etc were supposed to be “safe spaces” while mixed gender places did count like one.

  3. andy November 15, 2015 at 7:57 am #

    I meant to say “while mixed gender places did NOT count like one.”

  4. Sarah November 15, 2015 at 8:00 am #

    I think this posts and other recent posts on FRK have gotten into a murky area, that require nuance and voices from those actually affected. Many students/people of color (and queer and trans students/people) actually experience lack of safety on a regular basis. Literally threats to their physical well-being and life.

    My understanding of “safe space” is a place/time on campus where folks of targeted groups can gather and make sense/support each other within the larger context. That’s important/vital and doesn’t “baby” anyone – it helps people with vastly different experiences from the norm, who are regularly being targeted in various ways, navigate a context that doesn’t always value/acknowledge them, without losing their mind.

    Also, we’ve seen from THE WORLD that the general public is quick to target entire groups of people based on limited information and/or actions of extremists within a group. So yeah, a college should probably think about how to work with their student population to keep Muslim students safe after someone comes to campus and accuses some students of being potential extremists. Our country literally rounded up a large number of Japanese American citizens after Pearl Harbor only 70 years ago … Muslims were targeted across the country after September 11th. Until we as a country demonstrate that we can understand nuance enough to not over-generalize, we need safe spaces and awareness-raising and pushes from each other towards decency/kindness. Otherwise, we literally kill innocent people (and really, we do that all the time anyway).

    There’s of course argument and being uncomfortable and having your ideas challenged. And then there’s actual safety from real harassment of all kinds. We should fight for the first, while also fighting for the second.

  5. Powers November 15, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    Mr. Ward makes a very important, but completely unsupported, logical leap here.

    He notes that these groups objected to Horowitz’ speech. And he notes that they used the slogan “Not Safe UNC”. From that, he surmises that it was Horowitz’ speech that was directly making them feel unsafe.

    But it’s not.

    What actually makes the students feel unsafe is the fear that they will be targeted by anti-Muslim students /as a result of Horowitz’ speech/. That’s a big difference!

    I think that’s what a lot of people aren’t grokking with this whole “safe space” issue. It’s not the speech itself — it’s that when your’e already a marginalized population, any speech that could incite the dominant population to further marginalize you is threatening.

  6. andy November 15, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    @Sarah I would like to hear more about regular physical danger college students face. Were there fights? I also think that if there are regular fights and physical attacks on campus, then response should involve security or cops. If you do not trust those, maybe more cameras around so that incident is not so easy to dismiss.

    Affected folks do not need special designated room with speech rules to support each other. They need those physical attacks on camera and they need justice system to work so that physical violence is not enabled.

  7. Sarah November 15, 2015 at 9:09 am # And that was campus police …

    And sometimes, people do need a designated space. When you start questioning your sexuality and have no idea how your friends and family will react, that designated space is everything. There are countless other examples, but that’s certainly one real one.

  8. Wendy W November 15, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    As I was reading the article excerpt, a childhood rhyme came to mind: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Usually said as a taunt back at a playground bully, or from my mom if I complained about someone calling names. Of course, we all know, and knew as children, that words CAN hurt, but this rhyme was a statement that there was a difference between physical and verbal attacks. It taught us that verbal attacks could be sloughed off, we did not HAVE to be “hurt” by them, and learning to ignore them made us stronger.

    This current generation has been raised on the opposite idea. They have been taught since toddlerhood that words can hurt, and they should use them carefully. Simply calling names is now labeled as “bullying” and punished on par with beating someone up. No wonder they have such a twisted idea of “safe”. I wonder how many of the current generation have even heard the above rhyme.

  9. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    I think it’s an error, in most cases, to consider the “safety” that students are requesting/demanding is the same as physical safety, any more than all the talk about “safety” in baseball refers to whether the players are likely to be harmed.

    Consider this… part of the education that the students obtain comes from participation. Just walking around on campus doesn’t make you any more educated; going inside the buildings and classrooms won’t, either. You don’t master knowledge by just being near it. You have to engage it, wrestle it, sort it, and store it away. This takes effort, and time. I think that “safety”, as it is used in this context, is a word that means being allowed to engage, wrestle, sort… interact… with knowledge without being interfered with. In this meaning, a lack of safety isn’t referring to danger of physical harm, but rather, a danger to educational progress. If you can keep me from participating, you damage my education.

    College campuses have always had places where students could escape from unwanted advocacy. What we’re seeing, I think, is an attempt to expand the concept to the whole campus. The overall feel of the attempt is similar to changing education from something like a competitive sports league, to an “everybody plays” league. Now, some people don’t like the switch from competitive to “everybody plays”, usually the people who were best at sports and would have dominated a competitive league, but are not allowed to dominate an “everybody plays” league. On the other hand, people who are not that good at sports, but just want to have fun playing, are not happy in competitive leagues, where they wind up playing either Right Field or Left Out.

    We’ve always assumed that people should feel safe inside their home (both kinds of “safe”.). When someone shows up at the door trying to convert you to their choice of religion, or some commercial activity you’re not interested in, or whatever, and you don’t want to hear about it… you can shut the door, and the law will support your side of it if they won’t leave you alone. This doesn’t mean that people don’t confront difficult and challenging ideas… ideas that are different from their own… when they are at home, but they do get to decide when, and how much. Television pumps opinionated programming into homes, radio moreso, cable TV and the Internet even moreso.than that. But you can turn your TV off, turn your radio off, turn your computer off if you don’t want to deal with it and just want to pet your dog instead. We can call that “safety”.

    That meaning of “safety” can certainly be applied too extensively, and a university that did so would not be the one I’d want to attend. But I can see why some people might prefer it. I’m secure enough to not insist that everybody must do and think as I do. Just as there is a place for competitive sports leagues and a place for “everybody plays” sports leagues, there is a place for universities with more “safety” and less “safety”, because people are different in what they want, need, and expect.

  10. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    “Affected folks do not need special designated room with speech rules to support each other.”
    Are you making the logical leap from “I don’t need this” to “nobody needs this”?

    “They need those physical attacks on camera and they need justice system to work so that physical violence is not enabled.”
    They need other people to firmly establish that physical attacks on one are an attack on all.

  11. K November 15, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    Here I think we use “safe place” when there is a threat or attempt of violence on a person because of their orientation, gender, etc. It’s used as a place those who are victims of violence can enter and know people there have their back and will help. We have a neighborhood that has had some targeted crime against the LGBTQ community, and its designed to provide community support in these horrible instances. I think it’s a huge disservice to turn “safe spaces” from a threatened community experiencing targeted crime and hate to expanding it when someone doesn’t want to hear about dissenting opinions on campus lest they feel upset. There’s crime and there’s uncomfortable feelings. They are not the same.

  12. Reziac November 15, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    The “targeting” of gay students has not been quite all it’s been made out to be.

    Frex, the gay kid who got dragged to death behind a pickup truck? Hate crime, right? Er, well, not exactly… I heard more about it from friends on the spot, and the truth of the matter was rather different: Don’t steal drugs from your boyfriend the dope dealer, and your boyfriend won’t drag you behind his truck.

    Likewise, the case where a gay kid in Wyoming got tied to a fence and left to die — that wasn’t a hate crime either; according to people on the spot, it was a drug deal gone wrong. But those charges weren’t going to stick, so the DA went for the ‘hate crime’ angle. Plays WAY better on TV and is far more likely to get a conviction.

    But gay activists heard what they wanted to hear, because that validated their narrative.

    The truth is, even here in redneck flyover cowboy country, no one cares what you are between the sheets, and you’re as safe as anyone else… provided you don’t do stupid crap that would get ANYONE into trouble, and don’t use your “diversity” to punch others in the face.

    And if you think you need to be kept ‘safe’ from hurtful words — how the hell do you plan to cope with Real Life??

  13. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    “I heard it from a friend” — your number one source for news you want to hear.

  14. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    “Likewise, the case where a gay kid in Wyoming got tied to a fence and left to die — that wasn’t a hate crime either; according to people on the spot, it was a drug deal gone wrong. But those charges weren’t going to stick, so the DA went for the ‘hate crime’ angle. Plays WAY better on TV and is far more likely to get a conviction.”

    Especially if you can get the defense attorney to play along, and offer a “gay panic” defense. Look it up.

  15. Curious November 15, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    If SAFE is the new word for MELLOW,

    And TRUTH is the new word for SPIN…

    What’s next?

  16. Becky Bloyed November 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    I saw this from South Park and thought that they nailed the “safe space” issue with humor.

  17. Curious November 15, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    Worst – First Thinking . Do they teach that in Logic 101? Oh, I forgot ! They stopped teaching logic when all the parents refused to pay for college unless the kids majored in engineering or accounting.
    So now we all jump to the worst conclusion we can imagine and scream like the banshees are after us!
    My Mom used to tell about The Boy Who Cried “Wolf!” As a reminder to “don’t whine” and to “save your tears until you are actually hurt”.

  18. hineata November 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Considering the fact that even Sikhs were targeted in the US post 9/11 (because they wear turbans so must be the same as Muslims, right?!) I might be feeling extremely unsafe as a Muslim or a Sikh student right now on US campuses, so I’m not sure this chap has his examples all that well thought out.

  19. Jana November 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Sarah, a “designated space” should be your home. I think that this is quite sufficient. Many people are just way too touchy…

  20. Yocheved November 15, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    Can I get a “sane” space?

    All of these “safe spaces” are making me feel really unsafe. I think I may need a sexually ambiguous, sensitivity trained, consensual hug to get through this. Oh, and cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. With sprinkles, please.

  21. J.T. Wenting November 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    they want to be safe from having to think, from having to form an opinion, from any potential situation in which they have to exercise their own judgment.
    In other words they want to be told what to do, what to think, what to everything, and anything that upsets that balance is considered an existential threat them them.

    That’s the end result of helicopter parenting, a generation of young “adults” who are utterly incapable of fending for themselves in any way whatsoever, who think that needing to be told what to do, think, eat, wear, is a natural state of being and the only state of being that’s in any way appropriate for them.

    How different from our generation of the 1970s and ’80s who would rebel against anyone trying to tell us any of that…

  22. Curious November 15, 2015 at 1:35 pm #


  23. Sodium11 November 15, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    College is for learning, having your ideas challenged in a way that leads to intellectual growth, critical thinking, and becoming empowered to think for yourself and engage with the world in an informed and constructive way. This is an uncomfortable process, to be sure, and it needs to be. We do students no favors by shielding them from that discomfort or suggesting that it’s a problem for them to feel it.

    What’s totally different from that is being dehumanized, treated like a second class citizen, having others delegitimize your right to exist as a co-equal citizen on your campus — this can rise to the level of illegal harassment, or it can be everyday casual racism, sexism, etc. that is capable of hiding behind the veil of ‘free speech’. In fact, the learning describe above CANNOT happen if this kind of treatment is prevalent. It’s antithetical and has to be called out.

    (Many of the students who are the most ‘coddled’ if you believe in that word, are white students who complain any time anyone brings up the fact that racism exists. Google Shannon Gibney if you want a nice example.)

    The ‘free speech’ facade in this context is precisely the opposite of what Free Range is all about. It is college students — adults — trying to avoid responsibility for their words and actions, by hiding behind a “you can’t catch me” legalistic defense, instead of being mature, resilient, responsible adults who accept accountability for the consequences of what they do.

    The real world is rough, and college is meant to prepare students for the real world. OK, fine. But just because the real world is racist, sexist, etc., doesn’t mean that we have to accept that in our colleges without pushing back. And if you’re not on the receiving end of that discrimination, you have no right dictating to someone else how much of it they ought to put up with.

  24. Susan November 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Muslim students at UNC do have reason to feel unsafe, especially when speakers stir up hatred towards them. Those of you not from NC may not know about the shooting of Muslim students last year (you can google Deah Barakat to read about it).

  25. Jana November 15, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    Susan, what I know is that the case you mentioned had not been identified as a “hate crime”. Do not try to make smething else of it.

  26. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    “what I know is that the case you mentioned had not been identified as a “hate crime”.”

    So it’s just an ordinary crime? Or not a crime at all?

  27. John November 15, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Of course, the ironic thing is, David Horowitz for decades has been the foremost witchhunter on campuses nationwide, whose central purpose is to purge the universities of leftist,anti-racist,anti-Zionist, etc. professors. Meetings where he speaks should be protested. The problem with “safe space” politics is that it looks to the campus administration to “protect” students, instead of students protecting themselves.

  28. hineata November 15, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    @James – really, stop acting so dense. If you have a look at newspaper articles relating to the shooting of the 3 Muslim students, it appears that they were targeted not because they were Muslim, but because their neighbour was a pro-gun nutter who took exception to someone’s parking strategy. Therefore it doesn’t fit the definition of ‘hate’ crime as such, though obviously this nutter hated their parking habits (or someone’s in the vicinity).

    Understand now? Good. Move on to something else.

  29. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    “it appears that they were targeted not because they were Muslim, but because their neighbour was a pro-gun nutter who took exception to someone’s parking strategy. ”

    Well, that’s certainly OK. Nothing unsafe there.

  30. sexhysteria November 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    I can understand Muslims feeling unsafe. If I were Muslim I would seriously consider leaving the country and staying out of Europe too. But that is a matter of personal safety, not offense, just as with gays who have been the victims of unprovoked physical violence many times. The idea of safe spaces becomes absurd when there is virtually no threat of physical attack – merely disagreement that “threatens” to invalidate your opinions or preferences, as when crusaders against child sex abuse (CSA) claim nobody should be allowed to question the validity of the generalization that C.S.A. is always or even “usually” traumatic.

  31. sodium11 November 15, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Safe spaces allow people to feel welcome without being unsafe because of the identities they inhabit. A safe space is a haven from the harsh realities people face in their everyday lives.

    All good ideas can be exploited. There are some extreme, ill-advised and simply absurd manifestations of the idea of safe space. And there are and should be limits to the boundaries of safe space. Safe space is not a place where dissent is discouraged, where dissent is seen as harmful. And yet. I understand where safe space extremism comes from. When you are marginalized and always unsafe, your skin thins, leaving your blood and bone exposed. You live at the breaking point. In such circumstances, of course you might be inclined to fiercely protect yourself, at any cost. Of course you might become intolerant. Of course you might perceive dissent as danger.

    There is also this. Those who mock the idea of safe space are most likely the same people who are able to take safety for granted. That’s what makes discussions of safety and safe spaces so difficult. We are also talking about privilege. As with everything else in life, there is no equality when it comes to safety.

  32. Abigail November 15, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

    Does this seem like the slippery slope to a scenario built by Lois Lowry for The Giver to anyone else? Lock away the controversy, the disagreeable…the painful. Are we too weak to handle the diversity, depth and full-range of the human experience, ugly and all?

    James Pollack’s first comment in the thread eloquently described the glory that can be by embracing a learning process and becomming truly enriched. While a lack of safety threatens this process, so too does limiting our exposure to the variety of voices.

    Much like women were never too fragile to handle the ways and wiles of the world, our children are strong enough. Let’s remind them of their resiliency in an unfair world.

  33. James Pollock November 15, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    I don’t know why people can’t seem to spell my name. Not important.

    Safe spaces can be a shield. Where it’s not about forcing out opposing voices, it’s just about keeping them separate. (See this in operation as people freak out over transgendered people using the bathrooms of the gender they identify with… a bathroom is safe space. They come with locks even within private homes.

    When you switch from “you can’t say that here” to “and by here I mean anywhere on campus”, you switched from using the concept as a shield to using it as a sword. Racists are twits. Most sexists are twits. but they’re still people, and people are entitled to their opinions, even if they’re different from mine. (I have no idea why anyone would WANT an opinion different from mine, but people do seem to cling to them. Such is life.)

  34. J.T. Wenting November 16, 2015 at 12:14 am #

    “Muslim students at UNC do have reason to feel unsafe,”

    if they and their ilk would stop celebrating every terrorist attack against civilisation and would stop demanding special treatment and rights because of their excuse for a religion they’d have no reason to “feel unsafe”.
    It’s them making others unsafe (and more often than not dead) that causes people to not like them particularly much.

  35. James Pollock November 16, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    Dial it back, J.T. A half-dozen years ago, my state generated a radicalized nihilist who happened to also be a Muslim. The FBI was on to him, and arranged to give him a bomb that wouldn’t explode so they could catch him in the act of trying to set it off.

    How did the FBI learn that this guy was radicalized and considering murder? Well, it was people in his mosque who told them about it. How did this tip get repaid? Why, the mosque was firebombed, of course.

  36. andy November 16, 2015 at 3:40 am #

    “And sometimes, people do need a designated space. When you start questioning your sexuality and have no idea how your friends and family will react, that designated space is everything. There are countless other examples, but that’s certainly one real one.”

    Why would you need designated space for questioning your sexuality different then a private room? How is this place different from any other private club?

    Also, there is very little said about violence itself. Violence and dangers are not addressed at all, only as rhetoric devices. None of demands goes toward anything that could lower the amount of physical attacks. Am I only one who sees physical danger as kind of the bigger thing? It is always mentioned in passing to add gravity to situation and then speaker moves fast to unrelated demands which amount to either “we want room for our support group” or to “you wore a kimono so it is racist cultural appropriation” kind of complains or to “you should never criticize anything related to palestine/israel on our campus” (depending on which side the group is on).

    It is almost as if physical attacks and safety were used as false excuses to achieve unrelated goals.

    There is no demand for more cops, no demand for more cameras around, no surge of reported attacks or complains to police. There is supposed to be a lot of danger on the campus, but there is no demand for physical protection of the safe space – no locks and no guards. “Safe space” wont solve student on student violence – violent people can come to your safe space too. “Safe space” wont solve violence perpetrated by cops.

    Where ever there really is surge of physical violence, people tend to take measures to protect themselves or to give each other advice to protect themselves.I do not see students give each other any practical advice in that matter. It is as if “safe spaces” crowd cared more about preventing speakers they disagree with from talking then they do care about dealing with violence they say regularly happens.

    These demands sounds like demands of people who already have everything possible in the world in the most comfortable campuses in a world asking for one more room.

  37. Diana November 16, 2015 at 3:48 am #



    Bitter misery far from home.


    Alone and lonely.

    Cut the kids some slack.

    Minority kid in college needs a safety zone.
    The only safe place on the college campus is the frat house and only if you are an insider.

    “Safe” is living at home, attending community college for two years, then transferring to a college that is not a brutal, top-down, hierarchical degree mill. Such places actually exist. They are called “liberal arts colleges”.

  38. Hanna November 16, 2015 at 6:24 am #

    Hi Lenore, I live in Sydney, Australia. There was a tv show about kids and teens I think you would like. You can watch it on Iview, it’s called Four Corners, today’s date16th Nov. it’s about societal pressures on kids and rates of anxiety and depression in kids. Made me think how little resilience we allow our kids to develop.

  39. E November 16, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    Of all the things I’ve read here, it never occurred to me that it needed moderation. Until I read JT’s post. Clearly knows nothing of those American (Muslim) kids who were killed in Chapel Hill. The kids who were dental students and gave back to their community. The kids who were NOT parked incorrectly on the day of their death. The young student who did not even live there but was visiting.

  40. Steve S November 16, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new. I went to college in the 80s and 90s and there were many students that felt certain kinds of speech should be banned. I remember student leaders writing op ed articles that flat out advocated people not being able to say certain things if they were offensive to some.

  41. James Pollock November 16, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    “Why would you need designated space for questioning your sexuality different then a private room?”
    A private room would be likely to be empty. The designated space probably has other people who have similar experiences.

    “How is this place different from any other private club?”
    Most private clubs are made up of people who chose to join. Most minorities are made up of people who did not choose to be a minority.

  42. Hancock November 16, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    It seems like the term “safe space” tends to pop up in discussions of identity politics on college campuses. When politically liberal students form a political/social group, they seem to call it a “safe space” instead of a club. That students would organize and seek out like minded individuals doesn’t bother me. I am bothered by the abuse of dictionary terms. Colleges, statistically speaking, are remarkably safe places (unless you are a black out drunk female at a frat party full of black out drunk men, which begs other questions). Calling your club a “safe space” implies that college life is fraught with danger, and that mischaracterization reflects a stunted maturity and an assumption that different ideas are the same as violent ideas.

  43. James Pollock November 16, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    “Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new. ”
    It really isn’t. Oregon State University built the “Women’s Building” something like a century ago to provide a safe space for what was then a minority on campus. It’s had a Native American Longhouse for at least 30. Black college students have had the “historically black” colleges for about a century and a half, and of course, college campuses used to be segregated by gender, as well.

  44. James Pollock November 16, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    “That students would organize and seek out like minded individuals doesn’t bother me. I am bothered by the abuse of dictionary terms.”

    The Federalist Society must bug the heck out of you.

  45. Roger the Shrubber November 16, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    Minority students fight for their ‘safe space’:

    Instead of arrests of the protesters for assault, the most likely result will be the resignation of a Dartmouth administrator for saying ‘there is no room on our campus for violence like this.’

  46. Doug November 16, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    If you wish to be treated like an adult, you will act like an adult. If you wish to be treated as a child, you’ll act like a child.

    But acting like a child and demanding to be treated like an adult should be met with the proper level of scorn, disdain, and contempt.

    John Silber and Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa are examples of how college administrators should act.

  47. Doug November 16, 2015 at 11:17 am #


    I am looking forward to a site that lists the colleges and universities that coddle these infantilized adults so I make sure to give additional screening to any graduates who may decide to work for me one day.

  48. Steve S November 16, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    I can understand, to a certain extent, that people will always gravitate towards other people that are like them. I don’t think this will change. I am more concerned about schools moving away from free speech towards a place where certain viewpoints are advocated and others are forbidden.

  49. hineata November 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    @Diana – the one thing that minority students would be likely to have on a campus would be an instant friend group ….at least, that is, if they are a numeric minority on said campus, rather than just a general minority in society. That said, I see nothing wrong with them having a room or building for some periods of time for meeting together and providing mutual support.

  50. John November 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm #


    “It’s not the speech itself — it’s that when you’re already a marginalized population, any speech that could incite the dominant population to further marginalize you is threatening.”

    @Powers: With all due respect, that viewpoint is STILL a huge leap and a stifling of free speech. WHO exactly determines if a speech will incite the dominant population and further marginalize the “marginalized population”?? Your argument is exactly what these left-wing groups are using to stifle free speech. If David Horiwitz is correct and if the “Muslim Students Association” and the “Students for Justice in Palestine’ do indeed have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, there is nothing “hateful” or “threatening” about stating the facts. He’s not calling for Muslims to be attacked, he’s just stating what he believes is a simple truth. Even if he’s incorrect, then debate him on the issue. PROVE to him that he’s incorrect but there is no Constitutional reason to ban him from saying it.

  51. Bella Englebach November 16, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    The concept of a safe space (at least in a workplace) for LGBTQ people is a program developed at and originally licensed by Lucent Technologies. It has also spread to high schools via Gay/Straight Alliances. If you work or study in a state without employment protections for sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or a generally hostile environment, a “safe space” magnet on an office or classroom doorway means that you can come in and talk about your weekend, your family,etc, the same way a heterosexual, cis-gendered person can, and not worry about being ostracized, bullied, subject to religious conversion attempts, or fired. It is not about being coddled. In an ideal world, it would be unnecessary, but unfortunately, the world is far from ideal. Note that for the ally who puts that magnet up, they may be putting themselves at risk academically or professionally. This is far from the idea that one should be protected from ideas that shake one’s belief system, because the creation of the ‘safe space’ probably disrupts some people’s belief systems quite dramatically!

  52. Doug November 16, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    My infant son had a safe space. His crib was built so that he couldn’t roll out of it accidentally.

    But when he finally got big enough and skilled enough to try to climb out of it, I had to treat him like a toddler.

    Apparently, some people never move on from the crib stage.

  53. James Pollock November 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    “My infant son had a safe space. His crib was built so that he couldn’t roll out of it accidentally.”

    Hopefully, your whole house was a safe space for him. And still is, though at some point you expect him to leave it.

  54. Donna November 16, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    “If you work or study in a state without employment protections for sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or a generally hostile environment, a “safe space” magnet on an office or classroom doorway means that you can come in and talk about your weekend, your family,etc, the same way a heterosexual, cis-gendered person can, and not worry about being ostracized, bullied, subject to religious conversion attempts, or fired. It is not about being coddled.”

    How is that not being coddled? Under what theory is anyone entitled to discuss their personal life at work/school? Sure, it is nice to have people to chat with at work/school, but that doesn’t always happen for people of any sexual orientation or gender identity for a variety of reasons. I’ve worked at jobs where I made friends with whom I discussed my life outside of work and others where, although I got along with everyone during work hours, I didn’t socialize beyond that or let them very far into my personal life. Most jobs have involved a handful of people who I befriended and a whole host of others who never knew anything personal about me whatsoever.

    And I was somehow able to determine which group each person fell into all by myself without magnets. I did so by talking to people and getting to know them before I decided to discuss my personal life with them.

  55. James Pollock November 16, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    “How is that not being coddled? Under what theory is anyone entitled to discuss their personal life at work/school?”

    Under what definition of “coddled” is “you have permission to speak freely”?

    “verb (used with object), coddled, coddling.
    1. to treat tenderly; nurse or tend indulgently; pamper:
    to coddle children when they’re sick.

    2. to cook (eggs, fruit, etc.) in water that is just below the boiling point; cook gently.”

  56. AmyO November 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    I work at a K-12 school, and a student stopped by last week who had graduated last year. She had just dropped out of college. She had been going to one about an hour away, in a college town, living on campus. She said it was too hard. When I pressed what it was–did she not like her roommate? Were the classes too hard? Was she not making friends?–she said, “Oh, everything. It was really hard. I was feeling a lot of anxiety.”

    I was dumbfounded. Of course college causes anxiety! You’re on your own, managing your own time, your own meals, your own homework. This is a smart girl who had several friends at the same school. Of course she felt alone, homesick, overwhelmed. YOU’RE IN COLLEGE.

    I was furious! I can’t imagine if that was my daughter, three weeks before the end of the semester. I’d strangle her (not really, but you know what I mean). She’s not even going to get credit now! She has no applications in to transfer yet either.

    This is the problem with doing everything for your children. They can’t navigate completely normal developmental milestones and have no resiliency when things aren’t perfectly happy. They can’t just “suck it up”, which is a pretty important life skill. And I’m sorry, that’s not “anxiety”. That’s “feeling anxious”, and it’s not the same thing. If you suffer from anxiety and cannot navigate normal life situations, you should be working with a doctor, and then getting your rear end back to college.

  57. Wang-Lo November 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    Over-entitled students and their ilk are calling for “censored spaces” wherein certain speech will be banned. Many have gone overboard and are demanding that entire campuses be transformed into “censored spaces”.

    But this is still the United States of America, and calling for “censored” anything is anathema here. Even the frantic and distracted American public will not tolerate anything that sounds like “censorship”.

    What to do? Well, anyone who has studied marketing or politics in America knows that you can sell any absurdity under the sun by simply calling it something else. Just find a nice bland word with a diffuse meaning and a warm fuzzy feeling.

    Thus “safe spaces”.


  58. BL November 17, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    “Of course college causes anxiety! You’re on your own, managing your own time, your own meals, your own homework.”

    I remember being quite elated to be on my own, managing my own time, and it seemed like everyone else was the same way. There were those who handled it poorly, but not because of homesickness – these were the ones who blew off their classes for constant “partying”.

    Like the aforementioned girl, I lived an hour away, and sometimes didn’t call my parents for weeks at a time (this was before cell- and smart- phones).

  59. E November 17, 2015 at 8:25 am #

    I didn’t find college to be anxiety inducing (I probably never even thought about the word anxiety). I had planned to be a commuter student to a very large Univ that was in my city for cost reason. As luck would have it, the car that I was going to use/borrow/share with my Mom became unavailable just before school began (and would be in the shop for quite some time). At the last minute, my parents and I came to a financial agreement to allow me to live on campus. Despite the last minute plan (that I’d NEVER even considered possible), I was living on campus.

    I do recall taking my first biology exam and realizing “oh this isn’t high school anymore” as I was taking it, but that’s the only ‘moment’ I can even recall.

    Then again, I found High School a great time and I know some people think it’s awful.

    I have lots of mixed emotions about this whole thing. I never like the idea of people being afraid, and I do think that marginalized people exist and their experiences are different than anything I have ever experienced (or will).

    I also think that young adults are bombarded with so many things (24 hours news in their palms, social media that never sleeps) that their experience differs greatly than mine. I don’t think they need “safe spaces” for that.

    I can recall 1 teenage girl that was big on drama and her personal experience (I can recall the first time I ever heard someone say “I’m so depressed” and it was from her — I wasn’t even sure what exactly that meant). 30 years ago, that was unusual. Now people tweet and FB every (supposed) emotion to all their friends/followers. It’s very simple to co-opt the experience you think you’re supposed to be having I guess.

  60. AmyO November 17, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    BL: I was the same as you, happy to be on my own and counting the time to go back when I was home for break.

    I think the problem comes when we confuse “it’s tough to be on your own” with “I have anxiety”.

    Just like the students in the article confuse “I don’t agree with you” with “I don’t feel safe”.

  61. Tom November 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

    My son goes to Western Michigan University. He had to take a sociology class that turned out espouse theories that were, in my sons view, disingenuous. My son vehemently disagreed with textbook’s take on reality. He asked me if I thought he should drop the class. I told him no, but he should talk to the instructor about the conflict. My son went one step farther, he took the current chapter of the book and produced several studies and articles refuting nearly everything the chapter was espousing. The instructor acknowledged that the course material was indeed subjective and encouraged my son to continue to refute the book for the rest of the class, with sources.

    College is a place to learn your vocation, but also to be exposed to different ideas. You have to realize the difference. I wish an equal number of conservative values and neo-liberal progressive values classes were offered so students could be exposed to both. Unfortunately, most colleges choose to only expose children to the neo-=liberal progressive classes and the children don’t get the opposing viewpoint to balance their attitudes.