'Safe spaces' abound for students in 'emotional crisis' over Trump

Amber Athey
Investigative Reporter

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  • Colleges and universities nationwide are establishing "safe spaces" for students troubled by the results of the 2016 presidential election, offering everything from counseling hours to painting activities.
  • Colleges and universities nationwide are establishing "safe spaces" for students troubled by the results of the 2016 presidential election, offering everything from counseling hours to painting activities.

    St. Mary’s university has embraced the trend of colleges shielding students from the presidential election, offering a safe space with “warm drinks” and “nourishment” for students who are stressed by results.

    “Many students and campus community members do not feel safe today.”   

    Ete Martinez Anderson, the assistant dean of Student Life, sent a school-wide email encouraging students to “take a deep breath” and console each other in the Intercultural Center (ICC) and the Women’s Resource Center (WRC).

    “Whether you’re celebrating a victory or grieving a loss, let us remember to take care of each other,” Martinez Anderson wrote, informing students that they could come to the WRC to “paint, engage in creative projects, dialogue, and reflect.”

    The WRC Instagram page includes an advertisement for the safe space, telling students they can drop by for “love, discussion, a safe space, or a warm drink” while they “pay tribute to women of African descent.”

    Students at Illinois State University were also exposed to post-election stress relief efforts, through the form of counseling and “self-soothing strategies.”

    “Remember also that you can come to Student Counseling Services for support. Counselors can help you talk through your feelings, give you strategies for how to ground yourself, self-soothe, and turn distress into action.”

    Some of the “self-soothing” techniques offered in a linked article include slowly sucking on a hard candy, watching the clouds, or soaking in a warm bath.

    Illinois State also speculated that some students may be in “crisis,” and encouraged them to walk into the counseling center at any time.

    The Women’s Center at Miami University engaged in similar efforts to console students troubled by election results.

    Rhonda Jackson, an Administrative Assistant at the Center, forwarded an email from Bianca Zamora, a graduate student, to the International Studies faculty and students offering up the “space of communal support” and claiming that people are “living in fear and pain” after Trump’s victory.

    “Discourses around the Trump campaign have elevated the opportunities for the oppression of vulnerable and systemically marginalized communities,” Zamora wrote. “Many students and campus community members do not feel safe today.”

    “I validate the magic and power that is you,” she concluded.

    A flyer for the "Community Healing & Process Space" prominently displayed an image of a raised black fist while declaring the intention of students to "support each other who [sic] are in fear for their safety."

    At the University of California, Merced, Chancellor Dorothy Leland sent an email to the university decrying Trump’s “hurtful rhetoric” and assuring children of immigrants they would also have a space to mourn Trump’s win.

    “Our students, many of whom are the children of immigrants and rightfully take pride in being the first in their families to attend college, have been exposed to a lengthy, divisive campaign full of hurtful rhetoric, and they are understandably uncertain about what the future might hold,” Leland began her email to students and faculty.

    To assist with students grappling with an “emotional crisis” due to the election, Leland promised that safe spaces and counseling services would be made available.

    “A gathering space on campus has been set aside where students can come together for support and processing,” she declared. “Counseling center staff members are prepared to facilitate individual interventions for students in emotional crisis and for groups of students who request that support.”

    The New School’s Office of the Dean likewise told students that administrators were shocked by the outcome of the election because of the “Islamophobia, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and a slew of other hateful rhetoric and beliefs” that were allegedly brought to the forefront by the Trump campaign and validated by the voting results, assuring students that anyone with “substantial insecurities” about the election would be able to “process your feelings” in a safe space.

    “You are likely experiencing several painful emotions. Many of you may have substantial insecurities about the outcome of the election,” the email speculates. “This election may have sent you the message that you do not belong here or your contribution to society is unwelcome. That is not true.”

    The missive promises that there will be additional safe spaces in the following days, all of which will reaffirm the school’s commitment to “equity, diversity and inclusion.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey



    Amber Athey

    Amber Athey

    Investigative Reporter

    Amber Athey is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. She graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Economics, and is currently a member of the 2016-2017 Koch Associate Program. 

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