NUI Galway recently held an event to discuss whether universities should be “safe spaces”. Here NUI Galway, let me save you some time – no! If you think that a “safe space” or whether an entire campus should be a “safe space” is appropriate in this day and age, then you must ask yourself why are you so fundamentally inadequate to deal with alternative views, images, and people that you might find offensive?
Let us get one thing straight. Every human being should be treated with respect. This means being free from persecution due to their sex, age, sexual orientation, gender, and race. This is a standard that most of us can agree with, but what can be defined as persecuting someone, abuse, offensive imagery and language has become severely skewed to the point where we are better off not speaking to each other in case we hurt each other’s feelings.
Safe spaces, despite what advocates have said, are fundamentally separating us, categorizing us, labelling us and deem us unable to cope with anything that goes against what we believe in. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of safe spaces to avoid each of these things?
In contemporary university life, safe spaces that aim to protect women are a joke. To be on a campus that has safe spaces for women is like being in the Dickensian era, except it isn’t a patriarchal society that is refining women to the drawing room but these institutions themselves.
Since when have women become so precious, vulnerable, weak and unable to deal with obstacles that they may come across in university life, that they must rely on bureaucratic structures that confine them to a space? How are these structures not seen today as a mirror to the sexism that women have fought against for hundreds of years?
I’ve had strong women in my entire life. From my mother, to my sisters, to my girlfriend – and I cannot imagine any one of them accepting, that because they are a woman, they cannot simply cope with the big scary world outside of their space.
Safe spaces attempt to immunize student campuses. The whole point of a university is for a student to gain the intellectual confidence and knowledge to engage in discussion of free thought and expression, especially with issues that they find disagreeable.
Safe spaces are not about protecting victimised people, but rather they are about making campuses conform to their perceived thought on what is offensive and therefore must be banned. All we have to do is look across the pond to see what safe space campuses have resulted in. Many universities have banned speakers from their campuses due simply to the fact that some students can’t handle what they have to say.
In October 2016, Duke University set up a safe space for men to rid them of their male privilege and toxic masculinities. What in God’s name is happening to the world where something like this can exist on a college campus? What’s troubling is that people are buying into these beliefs and it’s warping them into extremely closed-minded people.
Irish colleges and universities are already safe spaces. Safe spaces in the way that each student is given every opportunity to develop, learn, and grow into the individual that they are destined to be, with the freedom to believe what ever ideals they want, regardless of their genetic makeup or personal beliefs.
A safe space or safe university is yet to prove any benefit that it brings. So far they’ve divided people who would otherwise be colleagues and friends, and they have made us focus on our differences rather than our similarities. They have confined us because they believe we are not strong enough to deal with university life. What’s worse is that they have diminished the core value of equal democratic debate and discussion, with freedom of speech and thought for all.