By Krystal Willliamson —
Mr. Amon wrote a piece on Nov. 17 that expressed a negative viewpoint towards the inclusion of safe spaces on college campuses, posturing that campuses were “coddling” students in need of a place to vent their emotions after the election. What Mr. Amon seems to have missed is that while safe spaces is a relatively new term, it is not a new concept. For decades, we have had institutions in place that have offered places for people to come as they are to grieve, vent and come together to face the problems of the world together as a community. Yes, sometimes unburdening yourself of stress and anxiety can even involve things like coloring books and puppies. Art therapy (established in the 1940s according to the American Art Therapy Association) and animal companions are well established methods of therapy, and should be welcomed in safe spaces environments.
It is natural for people to experience stress when faced with micro-aggressions over time, or when facing injustice, or even in hostile academic settings or workplaces. This is what safe spaces are designed to counteract. However, once the person has unburdened themselves, safe spaces then function as places of action. Safe spaces are also places for people to come together and discuss how to handle what has been causing them distress, and what actions that they need to take to make this distress to stop. This can take the form of filing complaints, organizing protests and learning what organizations and institutions exist to help a person deal with their grievances (be it as “small” as a micro-aggression or as large as a hate crime).
In the real world these safe spaces can take the forms of places of worship, institutions that promote legal aid for those facing prejudice or injustice (the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League are examples of these), centers of education at every grade level, town hall meetings and even the workplace. Yes, even the workplace.
The biggest safe space in the workplace is the Human Resources Office. Your Human Resources Officer is there to function as a person whom you can list your grievances to regarding your work environment. It is their job to help make the workplace a safe environment for everyone. Just as professors are beholden to Title 9 and other legal requirements to make the classroom a safe spaces the workplace’s Human Resources Officer also has company, state and federal regulations to which they are beholden to ensure that your rights as an employee are respected.
If you do not feel comfortable discussing your grievances face-to-face with your Human Resources Officer, or if the problem involves someone in upper management, there are always higher supervisors you can reach out to. Some workplaces even offer anonymous complaint lines for people to voice their issues or to whistleblow on discrimination in the workplace without fear of retaliation. If, for some reason, you are not comfortable with discussing your issue with someone within your workplace that is when you can file criminal charges or reach out to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League to help.
No one should ever be made to feel that they are less than a person or fear that their rights are going to be taken away. Considering the current political climate, safe spaces are more important than ever. Safe spaces will be sorely needed in the coming years for all people regardless of their backgrounds. I am glad to be a part of a campus that is so inclusive and offers safe spaces to its students while encouraging dialogue between people from all walks of life. The only way that this country will survive the next four years is if we learn how to talk to one another, and if people learn how to handle their grievances in a way that doesn’t “other” or marginalize their fellow citizens. Safe spaces are a great way to start to learn how to do this, and I believe they will help foster understanding between all the people in this country.