Tracker Pixel for Entry

A look at Safe Spaces in college

by Faye Seidler | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | July 19th, 2017

Over the years I’ve seen a number of articles and individuals condemning Safe Spaces as the bane of intellectual rigor, the death throes of free speech, and a major contributor to political extremism. In these articles, Safe Spaces get defined as places where students are free from information they find emotionally distressing: a place where students can mingle with like-minded individuals and not be criticized or challenged in any way.

Given all of that information, it really only makes sense that we abolish these places and invite intellectual conflict into student’s lives. That’s how we learn and grow, and that’s how we express, defend, and change our intellectual positions and world views. It’s college after all and therefore we need to hold everyone up to a standard befitting the institute, especially because when students enter the real world, they won’t have the tools needed to be successful.

Nothing can be more telling than looking at how students feel about this. There is a student perspective survey where 62% of college students thought Safe Spaces were out of touch with reality or were indifferent to them. A large majority of individuals on campus don’t want them or don’t feel we need them. Now, that all sounds super compelling, so we could probably just end the article here, but something is bugging me. What do the people who use Safe Spaces think about them? What benefit do they get out of it? Because I’m not sure there is a person who would say they use that space to create an intellectually stunted feedback loop.

I’m also not sure a person can find a Safe Space on campus that isn’t riddled with some drama or conflict pretty much all of the time.

What’s happening is individuals who criticize Safe Spaces are choosing an interpretation of the space removed from the actual experience. They create an easily discredited strawman by overgeneralizing what they feel the space is used for. There can be good intentions behind this, but there can also be the desire to oppress marginalized identities who benefit the most from refuge, under the guise of intellectualism. I added the survey above as supporting evidence for disallowing Safe Spaces, because the data and the wording supported that conclusion. But, using that exact same survey data, I can say that 61% of college students felt Safe Spaces were absolutely necessary or felt indifferent about them.

I can do that, because I’m lumping in the people who were neutral in a way that conveniently supports my position. That’s how cognitive bias works, we look for data that agrees with us or we contort data to seem favorable to our positions, all while thinking we’re being rational and logical.

When cognitive bias is applied to a group, it creates a filter bubble where individuals experience a positive confirmation feedback loop. They find and share data that supports their core beliefs, while ignoring, minimizing, or refuting anything else. This happens all of the time on social media. It happens on Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, and Twitter. These aren’t Safe Spaces, they are filter bubbles that create extremism by lacking any sort of accountability or criticism.

A trans-only space is incredibly important to me, because it’s the only time I’m in a room where my body isn’t shamed. It’s the only time I can breathe and know that despite all my imperfections, I will be respected. It’s not a room free from conflict, nor is it my desire to have a room like that in every building, but to know I have a room like that somewhere keeps me going through harder times.

Statistically speaking, LGBTQ+ youth have much better outcomes if they have an access to support groups like Safe Spaces. They have lower dropout rates, higher grades, and better emotional health. But, that’s just it, a Safe Space isn’t an ideological refuge, it is a spiritual one.

It is a place where students who are marginalized can find a degree of safety from physical and verbal assault. It is where they can find the support, community, and the emotional health to go out on campus and express, defend, and change their intellectual positions and world views.

As a final thought, since the issues tend to get tied together, I don’t believe individuals should be prevented from speaking at public events. Protests should be in the form of well-educated debate and not silencing, because it’s more effective in the long run.

However, I do think colleges have a duty to find intellectually provocative speakers that can best represent a position within an ongoing debate and not individuals who spout uneducated opinion, encourage extremism, use harassment, promote hate, or thrive on trolling.

[Editor’s note: Faye Seidler is North Dakota Safe Zone Project Spokeswoman]

Recently in:

FARGO – Police are looking for young man in connection to a homicide in South Fargo. On Friday, September 21, 2018 at 11:23 a.m., Fargo Police and Fire personnel responded to an apartment located within 2302 17 St. S. for medical…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comPhoto by Anne BradleyValkyries of the Valley will invade the North Dakota Apartment Wrestling Federation (NDAWF) for Brawl-esque, a variety show that will be held at Prairie Brothers Brewing Company…

Best Bets

Spirit Talk

by HPR Staff

Thursday, September 27, 7-9 p.m.Homewood Suites by Hilton Fargo, 2021 16th St N., FargoGet in touch with the other side! Sunny Dawn Johnston will help you reach the spirit world in this two-hour, eye-opening event. This is a group…

It’s bad enough when his word versus her word regarding sexual assault gets out in a high school hallway, but can you imagine it spreading throughout the national news media? Imagine reliving those events every time you turn on…

We failed to educate the players of “flag” footballI passed all of the American history courses in Morrison County District 54, Little Falls High School, and Moorhead State Teachers College, but I’m often appalled about what…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comAs I sat across from my wife at Himalayan Yak Tuesday evening, it dawned on me that time had slowed down. So often when we go out to eat, we are in a hurry. We get anxious when we aren’t greeted…

Music

Back in the saddle

by Sabrina Hornung

After a long hiatus members of Teenage Lobotomy reunited for the first time in 22 years at Center Fest in Robinson North Dakota this summer. With influences such as Husker Du and the Circle Jerks their high energy immediately had…

Director Craig William Macneill speculates on the infamous legend surrounding Massachusetts murder suspect Lizzie Borden in “Lizzie,” a long-germinating labor of love for star Chloe Sevigny. Working from a screenplay by Bryce…

It may be cliche to say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when wet plate artist Shane Balkowitsch found out that his 15-year-old daughter Abby Balkowitsch was following in his photography footsteps, he was…

by Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.com“Our mission is to invigorate civic conversation through intimate and transformative storytelling.” This statement posted on Theatre B’s website and tacked to their studio wall in…

In the approximately three years I’ve been writing for the High Plains Reader it seems I’ve always circled back to comedian Adam Quesnell. First, I wrote about his farewell show before he set out from Fargo and the comedy…

When walking into the new space on 1st Ave N that now houses Drekker brewing, one can only say, “Wow.” The majesty of the interior is unprecedented for a brewery in the region and provides a feeling of awe and astonishment.…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

by Andrew Alexis Varvelmr.a.alexis.varvel@gmail.com“If a piece of equipment purchased in the 1920s is kept up and can guarantee, at present, an operable rate close to 100 percent and if it can bear the production burden placed on…