Liberty vs. Safety: Which shall prevail?

The question needs to be asked in CSI: Do we really need these Safe Spaces here?

By: Declan Kaasler

Safe Space: It is an idea that has grown in popularity in the past several years. Nationwide, both private universities and community colleges have gotten onboard with the idea. It seems to be of great importance to the average college student, but what exactly does this mean? To define it in a basic way, a safe space is an area located on a college campus, typically an office or small lounge, where there is an alleged safety provided from inflammatory speech that might negatively influence a student. See, safe spaces are based upon a nice idea that we need to look out for each other’s feelings and as long as these spaces are kept voluntary, I have no objection.

One of the biggest problems these safe spaces have brought about is a widening of their influence. There have been shocking reports of colleges moving safe spaces into public areas like courtyards. As a result of this, the entire student body is forced to recognize it. Of course, I don’t go about my daily life deliberately seeking to offend my fellow students, but if a student wanted to, he or she is well within their rights. The very first amendment made to our United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech for all, everywhere. Safe spaces restrict the first amendment by telling us what we can and cannot say.

What all college students need to realize is the real world is nothing like the college experience. In the real world, there are no safe spaces to go to when your boss says something insensitive. By perpetuating this myth that everybody’s feelings can and should be constantly protected, colleges are only doing their students a disservice. In my own personal experience this Spring 2017 semester, I witnessed this behavior firsthand. During the opening introductions to Business Communications, my professor clearly stated that students would be required to get up in front of the class and attempt to persuade their fellow students to one position or the other. While this was largely implied to be a business-centric debate, that didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be potentially controversial statements made. After the class was dismissed, I overheard one of my classmates talking to the professor about this policy. In his words, he felt threatened by statements that upset him. He claimed that upon hearing such things, he got aggressive and that it would be in everyone’s best interest to simply allow him to leave in the middle of class when such situations arose. I never heard the end of that discussion but since he was absent the following week, I can only assume that his request was denied.

Some students might argue that we need safe spaces to serve those who might be suffering from PTSD. Certainly, we should be helping to rehabilitate those who’ve gone through a traumatic and life changing event but in CSI’s case, there are services that exist to help mental health healing. These can just as easily be used by anyone and won’t compromise the atmosphere of freethinking for the rest of us.

In CUNY’s case, we are a state and city-owned institution. This means that any campus restriction of free speech would be a violation of the First Amendment, which is highly illegal and unconstitutional. The First Amendment does not protect people’s feelings.

There is a serious problem when students drop classes based solely on the fact that they can’t be guaranteed an environment that emotionally coddles them. The whole point of college is to expose us to new ideas and knowledge and neither of those can be obtained when a student shuts out the world. With all the diversity that exists in the world, shouldn’t we embrace it?

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