Do you really need a “safe space”?

Ever since American universities became plagued with the phenomenon of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and so called “microaggressions”, and then British universities suffered the same infestation of coddling and political correctness, we’ve had a lot of discussion about trigger warnings and safe spaces. Safe spaces are ostensibly places where you could express yourself freely without judgement, but in reality these safe spaces seem to be nothing more than places for students to retreat in order to safeguard themselves from offensiveness, political incorrectness, ideas they don’t agree with, and all the “horrors” of freedom of speech and expression. I’m happy to say that my university doesn’t have safe spaces, or trigger warnings for matter.  During one of my regular appointments today I was even informed that some of the faculty (not including my actual lecturers) have actually been in discussion regarding the very fact that the university has no safe spaces, and floating the question of whether or not we may need them.

The idea, I was told, was that if one was ever stressed or under pressure, a safe space would make a venue to de-stress, to relieve oneself of internal pressures and conflicts. But honestly, I just go home and relieve stresses and pressures. In regular meetings with support lecturers/mentors where I talk about work, I can get quite a few things off my chest, and I still wouldn’t call it a safe space. And besides, unlike many of these safe spaces, these meetings are sessions where I still discuss things pertinent to my coursework, develop some strategies, and get shit done. Not really what I’d describe as a “safe space”.

And the students in America, the UK, and everywhere else who think they need paternalistic “safe space” policies really need to a perspective in hardship. No matter what you do or where you go, university is a hard place, you do hard academic time there, and a shock to the system is unavoidable. My first year started off horribly for me. I came in wanting to be an artist and an ideas man in video games, and when those ideas were subverted or shattered by what I had come to understand about the games industry, I had a lot of difficulty processing this. I became disillusioned, angry, sort of sad, I questioned whether or not even belonged in the course at such an early stage. I even almost came undone at one point when trying to dealing with work, and I almost dropped out. It was such a shock to the system. And later on, I had to deal with a horrible argument among my fellow students, and even this year I had to put up with one of my teammates shouting down my neck over the rig I was supposed to do, and that tended to upset me and make me mad. And guess what? I was never offered a “safe space”, and as it turned out I never even needed one anyhow. All I needed was the right people to talk to, and time to come to my senses and come to certain realizations. I still struggle with doubts sometimes about whether or not I’m that good a student or game designer, but you know what? I’m doing pretty well for myself, judging from the marks I’ve received over the past three semesters. I’m growing anyway, getting stronger, and I’ve got a few ways of dealing with stress and anxiety independently.

Oh, and I’m autistic. People tend to assume that individuals with additional learning needs require more coddling than most people, they tend to think we can’t handle the world as it is, but I’m fine. I’m autistic and I can try to deal with the world as it is, meanwhile supposedly normal and well-adjusted students are actually weak-minded enough that they feel they need to be protected from offense? That, truly, is fucking pathetic.

If I had a safe space policy at my university, and I chose simply to shelter myself from the outside world instead of just trying to deal with it, I don’t think I’d get as far as I have. Do you?

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6 responses to “Do you really need a “safe space”?

  1. I can see both sides of this one. I think much of this has to do with the steady increase in school shootings that have happened over the past several years, as well as the fact that female college students have always had to deal with the threat of being raped on campus at night. Clearly, the old way of doing things simply won’t work anymore, and something must be done to improve the psychological climate of our schools. I don’t believe that safe spaces and trigger warnings are enough to fully accomplish this – not by a long shot – but given that I work at a university and I’ve seen cohorts come and go, I do think it’s better to have these things than to not have them. Not everyone will need them (yourself being a good case in point), but some people will, and I’m generally in favor of anything that might help reduce the possibility of my wife getting a phone call one day, informing her that I was shot and killed by some disgruntled dipshit student.

    • I can’t get on much of a high horse over the fact that my university doesn’t seem to have these problems – the UK is just a different place.

      • That’s weird, I wish I were actually American. And in the UK, we openly embrace illiberalism and without same things that might remind you Americans otherwise. I wonder if, to you, I must seem crazy to want to leave the UK in favor of America.

      • Well, you know your country much better than I do, so I certainly wouldn’t call you crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I think my country is absolutely terrible. But we do have our problems, and one of the biggest is our ongoing Cult of the Gun. Ah, but now I’m hijacking your thread. Bringing this back on topic, I’d be curious to know why your schools are interested in safe spaces and trigger warnings, if it isn’t intended as a response to school violence.

      • I’ve heard it’s almost because the American universities are adopting it. I guess us Brits just caught on to American student ideas. Or maybe the student left/liberal establishment is pretty universal in the Western world. A lot of it is just that students have become too sensitive to ideas that contradict their political establishment – which happens to be a left wing, supposedly liberal, establishment. If you fall outside the left wing in some universities, students feel threatened by that.
        We actually have a batshit crazy NUS, who’s now controlled by a woman who apparently believes the media is controlled by Zionists and has refused to condemn ISIL. On its own, the NUS actually banned beer, encourages censorship, and even went so far as to ban Holocaust Memorial Day because it’s “not inclusive”. Student unions have even banned “lad’s magazines” and porn over spurious fears of sexism.
        Student unions have had, and still do have, a tendency to no-platform speakers they deem offensive or threatening, just for holding talks, effectively barring them from speaking. Not just far-right guys either, they’ve even banned feminists! They’ve even barred the likes of Peter Tatchell from speaking and he advocated for the rights of the LGBT community and put himself in real danger (so I’ve heard) in order to do it. They fall under the belief that radical and “offensive” speakers have the power to instantly swell students, who are apparently too suggestible for their own good.
        Stephen Fry actually had an interview about trigger warnings that you may wish to check out if you haven’t already – the fact that he was universally condemned by both Twitter mobs and the British press, both of whom misinterpreted what he said, for what he said about trigger warnings and self-pity should tell you a lot.

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