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?