University Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings: Recently the Dean of the University of Chicago sent out a firm and stern letter to new students stating that there is an expectation for them to engage in ‘rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement’ (sounds marvellous). He went on state that University safe spaces and trigger warnings will not be tolerated or welcome, nor will they cancel speakers who hold controversial beliefs.
Safe Spaces– A physical space where a person can feel completely safe, comfortable and welcome and a place where one can retreat to from ideas, view points and people that they find themselves at odds with.
Trigger Warnings– A statement at the beginning of a text which alerts audience members to potentially disturbing and distressing material within that text.
Reactions to this letter were mixed. Some believed in was a step forward against coddling and shielding students from reality and move back towards free speech and prioritizing intellectual debate and education over hurt feelings. Whilst others believe that opposing safe spaces and trigger warnings is ignoring the realities of racism, sexism and prejudice on campus.
It truly is ironic: Once upon a time it was educational institutions that were radical about not offending; now it is the student population who are radical about not offending.
The origins of University safe spaces began with the women’s movement in the sixties which was continued by the gay and lesbian movement in the 1970s. The original concept was to provide minority groups with a physical space that was safe and welcoming and allowed them the chance to speak and act freely without discrimination or censorship.
South Park (Safe Space Episode)- Features students breaking students singing about their safe space, where “unpleasant criticism’ is not allowed “If you don’t like me you’re not allowed in my safe space, rainbows all around me in my safe space. A figure is lurking about outside, he states “I am cold and I am hard. My name is reality”
Are you for or against safe spaces and trigger warnings in Universities?
Do they support or go against the core foundations of higher education?
ARGUMENTS FOR SAFE SPACES IN UNIVERSITIES:
- Trigger warnings are a necessity. They alert people to potentially disturbing themes in texts such as rape and racism. A person who has experienced rape or racism in their life may feel that they need to avoid these types of texts as it might conjure up emotional recall, which will cause them distress.
- Speech is never really free. Hate speech and harassment poses great legal and moral concerns. There are some things, and some people, that a university should not give time and space to. Such subjects and people are not fit for academic discussion. When a Uni gives a subject or a person a platform, they are legitimizing it in a way that could harm students.
- The claims of University safe spaces being an assault to free speech are greatly exaggerated. There is very little evidence to show that university students are against free speech or want to be overly protected from reality. The majority support free speech. Safe spaces actually enhance free speech.
- The concept of safe spaces varies between colleges and students. Regardless, people need a safe space in a schooling context where they can feel completely secure and comfortable, as well as being surrounded by those that are similar to themselves. It prevents harassment and prejudice from others that are different from them.
- Safe spaces give people a place to relax and regroup after coming across people, ideas, and comments that are distressing and/or offensive. Apart from trained staff members trained to deal with trauma, students often have the option to unwind with images of cute puppies and kittens, colouring books, Play-Doh, blankets, pillows, soothing music, and refreshments such as milk and cookies.
- The reason why safe spaces have become so prominent is because the demand for it is there. There is a need for colleges to have spaces where a person can go to when they are feeling bombarded by offensive coursework or critical teachers and fellow students.
- Universities are obligated by law to ensure that campuses do not become hostile environments. The right to freedom of speech does include speech that is inflammatory and to protects the most vulnerable among the student body, especially individuals from minority groups. For example, fraternity brothers were expelled from The University of Oklahoma for singing a racist song calling on the lynching of African Americans.
- Universities are full of prejudice and harassment. Transgender people are objected to vile questions and remarks about their genitalia, females complain about sexist language used in classrooms and sexual harassment on campus, students from lower income backgrounds are discriminated, Jews and Muslims are regularly discriminated against, racism is alive and well, and gay and lesbian students still face stigmatisation. This has absolutely nothing to do with educational content and is counterproductive to a learning environment.
- When marginalised students speak up they are called overly sensitive and too precious for their own good. Instead of addressing concerns, faculty and other students, blame a so called modern form of political correctness.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST SAFE SPACES IN UNIVERSITIES:
- Discussions and materials present in Universities can be challenging and they can illicit intense emotions but that doesn’t mean that this process should cease simply because it makes some people feel uncomfortable. The whole point of higher education is to stimulate challenge and engage in critical thought and debate. This is the reality of life; hence the concept of a safe space is an unrealistic form of coddling and protecting adults from the real world.
- University safe spaces are a perfect example of how our society does not teach young adults how to deal with opposing ideas and conflict.
- University safe space and trigger warning far left advocates are out to remove free speech that disagrees with their sensibilities. They also do not want to allow any critical thought or challenge which is directed at minority groups. No groups should be above scrutiny. Censorship eliminates diverse thinking.
- Safe spaces full of toys, blankets, colouring books and pictures of baby animals resemble a Kindergarten. We are not dealing with 5 year olds, we are dealing with adults. If an individual needs this kind of physical space in order to escape and recuperate from ideas and subjects that make them feel distressed, they have no business being in a higher education institution.
- Trigger warnings for classical works of literature and film infantilise students and turn colleges into post trauma zones. This process also encourages students who have experienced situations such as racism and rape to remain fragile. Exposure to material which relates to their past may actually become stronger by exploring these subjects.
- Smith College in Massachusetts apologized for “hurting” students panel member using the word “nigger”. The panellist used the word to discuss American history whilst teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and to explain why using that word is wrong. The Student government submitted a letter stating “if Smith College is unsafe for one student, it is unsafe for all students”. It’s truly amazing that these students could not tell the difference between hateful racist speech and speech about racist speech.
- Safe Spaces are a reflection of the pseudo liberal fantasies of privileged, over educated, middle to upper middle class liberal idiots who enjoy hollow forms of protest. They simply want to find prejudice in anything, which includes such lunacy as forcing a ban on an Abortion seminar at Oxford University because two of the panellists speaking were men. They completely ignored the reality that men are very active in this field. Men are doctors, abortionists, psychologists, and counsellors. This ban makes no logical sense at all.
- Safe spaces segregate students from the world outside of their own ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc. Queensland University of Technology insists that their Indigenous Australian safe space isn’t segregation but helps indigenous students in succeeding at university. Do Aboriginal students face high risk of harassment and prejudice from other students? How does the exclusive supply of computers and photocopiers aid in the advance of their education? Do the main library hubs not meet their educational requirements?
- Far leftist agenda propels the modern “need” for safe spaces. They are more than happy to grant freedom of speech and expression as long as it doesn’t go against their odd agendas. The University of Sydney denied the erection of a men’s society which aimed at helping male health issues such as depression and anxiety because it apparently threatened the existence of the LGBTI community.
- Universities often give in to extremist safe space pushing students when it comes to their request for cancelling speakers that don’t suit them because it forces the Uni to spend extra money on security to protect the speaker. This is not cheap and those students know that they can use that angle to their advantage.
- Students feel that because they pay tuition fees, it creates a commerce type relationship between them and the university. They see themselves as customers so they feel they have the right to make whatever demands they see fit.
OLD SIMO’S OPINION
I have been closely following the topic of safe spaces and trigger warnings for many years with utmost fascination. When I was at university, which was from 2003 up until 2007 there was no discussions on trigger warnings or the demands for safe spaces. There probably was a women’s room and a LGBTI room somewhere at Monash University but I never happened to walk past them nor was it ever something that I heard about in discussions. This craze started in the US then infected its way into the United Kingdom and Australia, so I feel fortunate to have missed it. That’s right…I am completely against how safe spaces are being used as weapons for far leftist prpoganda and as a refuge for hiding and recovering from opposing ideas.
As is often the case, the safe space movement didn’t start off too badly. The objective of reducing and preventing hate speech and forms of harassment is a good idea. But how it began is far different to what we have now. It has been hijacked by extremist leftists. Pseudo rebels without any real cause. I applaud the good staunch sense of the University of Chicago for putting their foot down and rejecting the safe space/trigger warning movement. Students seem to be able to exert a lot of influence over higher education institutions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However it becomes a negative when it crushes the core reason for the existence of Universities.
Far left liberals are happy to grant you freedom of expression and speech as long as it doesn’t clash with their specific and narrow agenda. They confuse critical thought with hate speech, they do their best to find racism and prejudice in just about anything. I believe its grown from the agenda of needing to protecting minorities at any cost. So much so, that any opportunity to voice and act on this kind of protection is picked up on. Even if it is illogical, irrational or harmless.
The need to retreat to a physical space to unwind from stress, offence and anxiety at an adult college is beyond ridiculous. The whole point of higher education is to expose students to intellectual debate, to new ideas and to the multi dimensional aspects of a topic. This safe space movement turns students into little children, coddles and over protects them from nothing but the realities of the world. It does not prepare them for the next step in their adult lives. It turns them into weak willed insipid flakes. If one is offended or distressed by challenging ideas and critical thought, one should not go to University. One should build themselves a cocoon and stay there.
What also puzzles me is the need to ban speakers who hold opposing views. Does allowing the speaker to speak legitimize him/her and his ideas? Not necessarily and not completely. A truly intelligent person knows that as long as one isn’t inciting violence or harassment in their speech, they should be allowed to express themselves. If their ideas don’t suit you or make you feel that uncomfortable don’t attend the seminar. There is something very troubling and hypocritical the censorship of speakers at Universities.
Personally I hope that the bold move by the University of Chicago sets a standard. I hope it goes back to the way it used to be. Otherwise our society will be worse off for it….