GW admin creates 'safe space' for students traumatized by Trump

Kara Zupkus
D.C. Campus Correspondent

  • The director of The George Washington University’s Corcoran School of Art and Design recently emailed students and staff to invite them to a "safe space" following Donald Trump's election.
  • Asserting that Trump "is seen by many to be a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, and a xenophobe," Sanjit Sethi claimed that “we have already witnessed an uptick in hateful speech” since Trump’s election.
  • The director of The George Washington University’s Corcoran School of Art and Design has no love lost for Donald Trump, as he made clear recently to students and faculty members.

    “A week ago many of us were shocked by the outcome of the presidential election,” Sanjit Sethi states in a November 16 email to the Corcoran community, clarifying the he is referring to “the election of an individual who is seen by many to be a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, and a xenophobe.”

    “Fascism is not far away, and we’ve been too nice for too long to allow people to get away with this.”   

    [RELATED: College admins regale students with anti-Trump diatribes]

    He then goes on to claim that “we have already witnessed an uptick in hateful speech” since Trump’s election, and ponders what Corcoran can and should do to uphold its “responsibility to create a safe space for our students, faculty, and staff.”

    To help answer that question, Sethi invites recipients to a community meeting on Nov. 21 where they would be able to openly express their opinions on the election and its implications.

    At the meeting, Sethi encouraged students to share their fears about the election outcome, declaring that “the Corcoran can’t be one of those institutions that can pretend to close its eyes no matter what the prevailing political winds are.”

    Several students expressed the sentiment that the “changing political tide” caused them to “fear [for their] safety, even within the building.”

    “I’m terrified because I don’t know how to live in this America,” one student fretted, noting that “things are changing in some ways that are physically threatening.”

    [RELATED: MAP: Campuses reel in outrage, ‘fear’ over Trump’s election]

    “Fascism is not far away, and we’ve been too nice for too long to allow people to get away with this,” another participant opined, suggesting that the school should reach out to the Clinton Foundation to form a partnership for “free expression.”

    Professor Georgia Deal suggested that the Corcoran School begin to invite different political and advocacy organizations to speak, and floated the idea of using the school’s printing abilities and other resources for marches and protests.

    “We’re interested in having Planned Parenthood come in and support women’s rights to use the possibilities we have here in the school in regards to photography and printmaking whether it’s a march or letter writing,” Deal said.

    Sethi endorsed the idea of using the school’s printmaking capabilities to create posters for protests and the Million Woman March (which is scheduled for the day after the Inauguration), declaring, “I’m all about taking it to the streets.”

    Another Corcoran professor floated the idea of using the GW campus as a “safe space” for women to rest after protesting Trump during the Million Woman March.

    Sethi explained that a plan is in the works to create a moveable mouthpiece, aimed at the White House, that individuals can use to metaphorically share their feelings and concerns with the new administration, which he hopes will be completed soon after Inauguration Day.

    Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski stated that there were no new plans to make GW a sanctuary campus, but Sethi disregarded the assertion, saying, “Regardless of a broader institutional policy, I think we as a community know that want to act and we want to support undocumented students.”

    When asked by Campus Reform whether his email to GW Corcoran students might be considered an abuse of power for partisan political purposes, Sethi skirted the question.

    “In my letter to the community, you will note that the emphasis is to foster an environment where all are welcomed,” Sethi said. “It goes without saying that this includes those faculty, students, and staff whose political opinions are aligned with the President-elect.”

    [RELATED: ‘Safe spaces’ abound for students in ‘emotional crisis’ over Trump]

    “I believe it is important at this time to discuss what has motivated the significant fears shared by many of the Corcoran community since the outcome of the presidential election,” he continued, adding that any member of the Corcoran community was welcome to participate in the post-election discussion regardless of political views.

    George Washington University did not respond to request for comment by Campus Reform.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @kara_kirsten





    Kara Zupkus

    Kara Zupkus

    D.C. Campus Correspondent

    Kara Zupkus is a Washington, D.C. Campus Correspondent, and reports liberal bias and abuse on campus for Campus Reform. She studies Political Science and Journalism at The George Washington University, where she serves as treasurer of GW's Chapter of Young America's Foundation.

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