Special Reports

Safe Spaces In College: What Universities Should Consider In Terms Of Freedom Of Speech


The issue of safe spaces has sparked an intense debate across the nation. People who are for it argue that students need it for to stay healthy mentally. Critics of the idea, though, believe that this would be equivalent to coddling students and may actually threaten freedom of speech.

University of Chicago's Dean John Ellison went under fire last September when he confirmed that he will not support trigger warnings. He also admitted that the institution will not "condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces'" where students can "retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

In November, a New York University professor of Liberal Studies was forced to go on paid leave after he criticized campus trends like safe spaces, trigger warnings and the policing of Halloween costumes. Michael Rectenwald, 57, was criticized for his "incivility," which he described as being pushed out the door for having a different perspective.

According to Telegraph, the concept of academic safe spaces were created to make sure that the rights of those who face "significant societal advantages" or people who are not in positions of privilege are protected. However, the publication noted that the concept of safe spaces morphed into something different from its original purpose in British universities.

Now, people cry out for safe spaces to tune out uncomfortable and dissenting positions - usually opinions that are different from theirs. This is a problem since it will disregard the other person's freedom of speech; the right to speak one's mind freely without persecution.

The publication stated that what is happening now appears to be incompatible with their argument for safe spaces. These spaces should be providing everyone, regardless of class, race or gender, an equal right to express their opinions, whether these ideas are controversial or dissenting from the majority.

In a piece for the Washington Post, Zena Hitz, a faculty member of St. John's College, said that "the safest place on Earth" is the freedom that comes with "an authentic liberal education." This means that students should be taught how to discuss and receive the opinions of others, whether they agree with it or not.

It is one way for them to know what they truly believe in. Plus, it would teach them to truly understand and learn the fundamentals of their beliefs.

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