Safe spaces don’t make a safe school

Tim Mikulski, Art director

It makes sense that talk of safe spaces is centered on places of education. High school and college are intensely formative times, and students encounter frequent new ideas compared to the relative isolation that middle and elementary schools provide. LT students are receptive to each others’ ideas; it’s not rare to hear meaningful, productive conversation about real issues in the cafeteria, library, halls or anywhere else.

There is no agreed definition on what safe spaces are. At their worst, they are insulators that silence any and all dissenting opinions. Though they do serve as a refuge for those intimidated by or upset with perspectives and ideas different from their own, these students miss out on important development.

No one holds the same set of values, the same perspective, or the same ideas of what is right throughout their four years at LT. We learn. We talk. We are challenged. A student’s perspective is dynamic. We synthesize new parts of our own views with each new bit of information and each new person’s perspective. Without a constant flow of information and opinion, we stagnate. Officially designated safe spaces lead to that stagnation: an echo chamber where the growth of minds grinds to a halt.

Too many arguments against safe spaces are vain attempts to break down political correctness, and devolve into defense of hate speech and bigotry. The absence of a safe space is no excuse for inflammatory language, and in some places the institution of safe spaces has provided a needed shelter for students being verbally attacked. However, LT does not have a hate speech problem. Even if it did, safe spaces would not be effective in the slightest; for such a significant issue in LT’s own halls, school-wide action would be necessary and urgent.

Creating a safe space is not difficult. A faculty monitor and publicized location is easy to secure once the administration agrees. But once the safe space exists, it sends a message to students that they may not be safe elsewhere. In a school like LT where such strong support for students exists, the creation of official safe spaces would feel more like the administration admitting defeat outside of these spaces, rather than creating protection for those that use them.

A natural alternative is declaring the entire school a safe space. Again, this action would bear no influence on actual LT student life. The 2015 LT Climate Survey reported that 92% of LT students feel safe on school grounds. This number is significantly higher than other schools in the area, and declaring some imaginary safe boundary encompassing all of LT would do nothing but inspire backlash from the students crusading against political correctness.

Our administration provides endless opportunities for support and outreach, and the creation of safe spaces would create unnecessary boundaries within the student body. While a valuable resource at universities where student relations are tense, at LT they would be a waste of space—safe or otherwise.