Safe Space Are colleges bending under pressure of politically correct culture?

Depending on the point-of-view of an individual person, the term "safe space" could be defined as a place where people can come together and have relaxed discussion without feeling judgement, or quite the opposite: it could also be described as a space used to escape the harsh realities of opposing ideas.

Typically, according to general surveys and polls, more liberal-minded students tend to lean more towards the use of safe spaces to offer a secure area for minority students, such as LGBT or African-American individuals, and more recently, Black Lives Matter supporters and anti-Trump protesters.

On the other side of the issue, more conservative-minded students are against the use of having a protected area for certain individuals, or having this area for anyone at all, in order to face controversial or offensive terms rather than hide from them.

Although many stories of "crybullies" that demand these safe spaces on college campuses stretch the truth, or turn out to be fake, there is evidence that the politically culture of today is having an effect on certain campuses throughout the country.

A part of this PC culture works to deliver "trigger warnings" to discussions that could potentially upset some students, particularly minorities of sexual orientation or race. According to a Pew Research Center poll, Millennial-aged individuals are more likely to demand that offensive terms be banned from public speech than their older counterparts of the Gen X or Baby Boomer generations.

The issue of banning offensive terms in public may sound like a good idea, but who determines whether a word is offensive? There are obviously offensive terms, such as the "n-word," that have been banned in the sense that they are not allowed on television or other media outlets without being censored.

Unless it is live TV, as was the case with a CNN segment with Brooke Baldwin about President-elect Donald Trump's white supremacist supporters. One of the guests on the show, journalist Charles Kaiser, used the n-word in the context of, "If you don't want to support the alt-right, don't choose as a White House chancellor a man that uses the word 'nigger."

Although it can be argued that the term should be banned, the guest on CNN used it uncensored in order to prove the point that racism must be faced head on, however the CNN host and other guest of the segment were deeply offended just by hearing the word itself.

However, what about other terms deemed offensive? Some say that the word "woman" is offensive because it has "man" in the word; would "woman" be banned from public speech if we start by banning actual offensive speech?

If the government banned certain terms, even if they are deemed offensive by most of the population, this could potentially lead to individuals or groups demanding that any word that offends them be banned.

Do these issues effect Emerson College? President Lee Pelton comments:

Recently, posters from a white supremacy group called, "American Vanguard" were found on campus, calling on white people to "Take your country back."

President Pelton sent out an email to the Emerson community, condemning the posters and the people who placed them in the Walker building and a residence hall:

"We have not yet identified who placed these posters in our community under the cowardly cloak of anonymity. However, I have asked the Emerson College Police Department to do all that it can to identify the person or persons who did so.

We will not tolerate the promulgation of racist and anti-Semitic declarations in our community.

Staff in the offices of Diversity & Inclusion and Student Affairs are available to offer support should you think it helpful."

The only incident found with the posters was the after shock the day they were discovered by the Emerson community. Thankfully, no students were physically hurt despite the harsh nature of the posters (and the fact that they were put up anonymously), however, support from staff in the Diversity & Inclusion and Student Affairs was available to let students talk about the situation that simmered down in a few days.

Is support and counseling needed on college campuses when an incident occurs with no one getting physically harmed? And although the posters were hate speech, would this reaction of supplying counseling hinder students from not being able to process hateful rhetoric later in life?

President Pelton comments on the matter:

Although racism, sexism, homophobia, and other hateful rhetoric must be confronted through education, we as a society cannot begin to bend over backwards every time PC culture deems a certain term as offensive, otherwise our society would run on the concept of punishing "thought crimes," which will make push back even worse in the future.

Xenophobia must be faced head-on in order to be dealt with, not by censorship or the extreme use of safe spaces to hide from the outside world.


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