Campus Reform | Safe spaces 'critical' to student success, college prez says

Safe spaces 'critical' to student success, college prez says

In the wake of the University of Chicago’s attack on safe spaces, one college president is adamantly defending their usage and calling UC’s letter insensitive to the needs of students.

Last week, UC’s dean of students, John Ellison, penned a welcome letter to incoming freshmen undergraduates warning them that he does “not support so-called ‘trigger warnings’” or safe spaces.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” he informed the students preemptively.

[RELATED: You won’t find safe spaces here, UC dean tells freshmen]

Evergreen State College president George Bridges, however, has taken it upon himself to present a defense of the use of trigger warnings and safe spaces, even calling them “critical” to the success of students.

“The University of Chicago’s letter to incoming freshmen was a sign of insensitivity to the needs of students,” he began his op-ed in The Seattle Times, saying UC’s letter “wasn’t welcoming,” adding that “the message, conveyed in a letter from the dean of students, revealed a profound indifference to concerns that many students now bring to colleges and universities.”

Bridges went on to call Ellison’s letter “tone deaf to the academic and developmental needs of many students,” arguing that “trigger warnings can alert students to genuinely distressing content that could otherwise cripple their learning.”

He then concludes by describing safe spaces as necessary to the success of students, arguing that colleges “must” create more of them.

[RELATED: Brown prof derides UC’s ‘cold, Darwinian’ rejection of safe spaces]

“Providing safe spaces for these students—that is, places and contexts in which they can reflect on and address these unfamiliar issues without fear of failure or rejection by others—proves critical to their success,” he contends. “As colleges and universities seek to increase rates of student retention and graduation, we must (and we are) creating these spaces.”

Bridges insists, though, that his argument is in no way a reflection of the culture of political correctness on America’s campuses, saying it is simply a response to the unique needs of students.

“In doing so [creating safe spaces], are we succumbing to the pressures of political correctness on campus?” he asks. “No. We are responding to the unique needs of many of our students solely for the purpose of increasing their academic and personal success.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski