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Safe spaces become a hot topic whenever school starts up again. The phrases of “echo chambers” and “bubbles” make common appearances in association. And everyone is up in arms to defend their views on what it means to have safe spaces on college campuses.
Just last year, the University of Chicago surprised its freshmen admits with a letter at orientation. The letter stated that the school does not recognize safe spaces or trigger warnings on its campus. Even notably progressive schools like UC Berkeley question the use of safe spaces. Earlier last school year, Cal students protested for safe spaces on campus.
So what is the deal with safe spaces? The definition of the term “safe space” is broad. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a safe space is “a place intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.”
Alright, so now that we have covered what a safe space is, why do we need them? In short, students need these spaces to catch a breath from toxic peers and professors. It’s for young people to escape bullying, homophobia, microaggressions, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and more. These safe spaces are helpful for students because they can surround themselves with people they can talk comfortably and openly without any fear of backlash. They are like another support service on campus, and schools should be required to provide these spaces for their students.
In these groups, students from marginalized communities are able to speak their minds without getting drowned out by others. It gives opportunities for students who have been through similar experiences to share their struggles and relate to one another. For allies, these spaces allow them to get insight into others’ lives and understand the privileges they live with.
Despite the benefits of having safe spaces on campus, debates on whether or not they serve a good purpose is still out there. It’s the idea that safe spaces coddle college students rather than prepare them for the real world. Apparently, it builds a sense of playing “victim” or foster intolerance on campus because safe spaces can turn into an echo chamber of the same ideas. But that is NOT how I see it.
It is necessary to have spaces on college campuses to provide room for marginalized groups to be heard. Without them, students are left alone without people or a place to turn to for support. Safe spaces aren’t there to create intolerance. Rather, they actually help foster confidence in students to participate in class, become active on campus, and even contribute to improving world around them.