The Chariot

Safe Spaces are Important. So is Dialogue.

The two rely on each other in order to be of value to students.

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Despite the stigma surrounding the name, safe spaces are important. That students have places they can go to feel accepted and comfortable encourages, rather than inhibits, personal growth. Someone who feels alone, unheard and invalidated will not contribute to his environment in a cohesive or productive way.

In 2016, University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison warned incoming freshmen that safe spaces would have no place on the campus in a welcome letter.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” his letter said.

On the other side of the political-correctness spectrum, riots broke out at the University of California, Berkeley in response to Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos being invited to speak on campus.

The planned talk was canceled when protests turned violent, causing an estimated $100,000 in property damage. The students had every right to protest- peacefully. Yiannopoulos is an inflammatory conservative, precisely the type of person the student body at a liberal-majority school like UC Berkeley would be expected to oppose.

This is where the notion of the safe space overextends its usefulness. Cultivating an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of all students, particularly those of minority backgrounds, will not be accomplished by breaking the law. Too often, the most radical voices are the loudest. There is no healthy middle in which debate and discussion can take place when people too readily object to different ideas.

The militant refusal to allow certain perspectives to be shared, regardless of how offensive or discriminatory they may be, is more counterproductive than anything else. Protest peacefully, articulately define and declare why such a point of view is unacceptable, acknowledge the flaws or slights in the other side’s argument.

Yes, certain spaces must be made available for people who feel marginalized to communicate regarding their experiences, but forums for public discourse must also be created. High-flung rhetoric about reaching across the aisle is mere fallacy without the means to foster dialogue between polarized schools of thought.

Utterly rejecting and denying adverse opinions is not progressive. Ignoring the existence of different beliefs is not effective in furthering understanding or promoting a given set of values.

An education tempered by diverse perspectives and systems of belief is an essential factor in intellectual development. An academic environment that includes people of different backgrounds and ideologies catalyzes individuals to consider what they value themselves.

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About the Photographer
Leah Graham, Editor
Junior. Editor. Twin. Sarcastic with good intentions. Skeptical optimist.
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