Safe Spaces on College campuses

 Danae Floyd

 *Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.

Election Day has taken forever to get here but needless to say the 2016 presidential race has been tumultuous to put it mildly. We have two candidates that are historically un-favored and a country that hasn't been this polarized since the civil war. With an election filled with xenophobia, racism, sexism and nationalist beliefs these things are now rearing their ugly head in the main stream. Folks on the opposite end of that spectrum push back with ideas like safe spaces.

According to the Safe Space Network Tumblr page a safe space is, “A place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.”

Most people would agree that college is not only a place of higher learning, it is a place where young people find themselves. College is place of exploration and examination of the world that we are intrinsically apart of, whether we feel it or not. College should be a place where all perspectives and ways of living should be given to students and we should form opinions our own.

But the question is where does the “line” end? When does free speech become hate speech? When does letting one student express themselves infringe on others students, not beliefs, but existence at that school and in the world? When one student’s beliefs are contrary to another student’s entire being is there is an undeniable line cross? This is why colleges should be safe spaces.

The argument against safe spaces is that students should be prepared for the real world. That in the real world people are going to say things we don't like or that will offend us, and yes that is true. However, we should be championing students to change the world. Young people seeing that it is unacceptable to discriminate based on sexuality, gender, race, religion etc. only does well for the world. Generation after generation of students coming out of college that see the world as a place that should be inclusive no matter who you are only makes society a better place. Besides, it is what our country was fundamentally founded on, “All men are created equal,” right?

I will agree, the idea of safe spaces has gone left, pun intended. We should not be creating physical spaces where only minorities are allowed like some advocates for safe spaces suggest. Exclusion and segregation in the name of inclusion is not the way to go. That being said, the premise has merit. The argument is not about limiting free speech. There are plenty of other things to say that aren't slurs. We are saying that colleges should be free of homophobia, sexism, racism, xenophobia etc.

Freedom of speech comes with responsibility. Just like the press has responsibility to keeping Democracy honest. We have a responsibility to each other. Using your freedom to keep marginalized people marginal instead of uplifting and welcoming them is irresponsible and continues America’s long ugly history of inequality. One year ago students at The University of Missouri protested and subsequently got their President to resign for doing too little to combat the problem of racial harassment they face on campus. Their protest sparked demonstrations and sit-ins that took place at more than 100 schools and universities reports USA today.

When hate speech is allowed on campuses, it silences students of the minority, thus being counter- productive. Minority students aren't able to get the full college experience when they are pulled down and distracted by irresponsible free speech. College is supposed to be a place of exploration. Hate speech prevents students from exploring the world and themselves. CNN reports, “In 2015 the U.S. Department of Education recorded 146 cases of racial harassment on college and university campuses.” CNN also reported that, “research has shown that only about 13% of racial incidents at colleges get reported to a campus authority.” In 2016 with an African American president and potentially the first women President, we should be beyond this.

College is a sacred place in our country. It is a transitional 4 years within the lives of young adults and if you embrace it you become a better version of yourself. College should be a place where people from all different backgrounds can go and be welcomed. There should be safe spaces that are intolerant of discrimination and in return we as a society will grow and become a better place for us all.

 *Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.


  1. Brenda Leffert 7 February, 2017 at 01:11 Reply

    I’m currently a student at Essex and have recently become homeless. I would like to know my resources and options that can help me resolve this grave issue that I’m experiencing. Therefore I’m asking if living on campus would be a option or due I have other resources that are available to me. I would appreciate any feed-back that can help with this delinma.

    • jcaplan 7 February, 2017 at 14:05 Reply

      Hi Brenda,

      We do not have any kind of on-campus housing at CCBC. I would suggest that you contact or stop by The Student Life Office on your campus. They should be able to provide a list of resources for you. Thank you for your interest in the CCBC Connection.

Leave a reply