Discussion in 'Current Events, World News, & LGBT News' started by Robert, Aug 26, 2016.
Read the rest of the short article (including Tweets by students)
Why are UoC racist?
I read the letter on Twitter. I like the idea of having a college that does not stifle or censor people's freedom of opinion. All institutions seek to create their own atmosphere, and if you are someone who needs safe spaces and trigger warnings, then this clearly isn't the college for you. It's not the only place of education in the world and nobody is forcing people to go there if they need protection from some things.
There's clearly a specific context to the remark about not condoning safe spaces. For example, the message is not that the university is opposed to the existence of an LGBT group on campus. The letter specifically targets the growing trend of students using "trigger warnings" and "safe spaces" as a means to shut down controversial (often conservative) viewpoints from being expressed on their campus. Even if you find an invited guest to be extremely offensive, you shouldn't picket the event and demand that the university cancel the speaker. Invited speakers should not be talked over or prevented from speaking; other students should not be impeded from attending a speech; speeches should not come with warning labels. There are limits to free speech, but as long as the speaker stays within those limits, that person should not be censored.
People online are taking immediate offense to this letter because they interpret that the University of Chicago is aiming to abolish safe spaces on campus. I think that's a gross misreading of what the letter is saying. Maybe the letter could have been worded to be less controversial, but I think the whole point was to filter out the students who would immediately take offense without a second thought. Those are the types of students who would eventually try to censor all conservative viewpoints, turning the school into a bubble of liberal and progressive ideologies. The University of Chicago probably hopes that this letter will motivate those students to decline their offer of acceptance.
After too many decades, I've concluded that the political spectrum is circular, both in spectrum and in time.
In spectrum, if you look far enough left, you'll eventually find a place that is the right wing, religious fundamentalist space (in Alabama, perhaps?). It's either someone who wants to control what you do, or what you think, or what you hear. Abundant, at either end, and virtually indistinguishable.
And in time, the politics of controlling others also repeats in a circular fashion. In 1950, it was the "homosexuals" and the "communists" and today it's the drug users, smokers, fat people, and the "sex perverts" (offenders), such as the kids they're putting on the registry for sending naughty pictures of each other, to each other. Proof? In 1970, the Boomers chanted "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" and "do your own thing." Today, they control the country's legislatures and have sent an unprecedented number of people to prisons for mostly moral "crimes" that they have legislatively created.
The concept of "academic freedom" flies in the face of a long, multi-hundred-year tradition of (usually religious) persecution of others' views and lives in the US. In America, there is an almost constant "quantum of hate" which dictates that, if the country shifts toward more progressive politics, the hate must go along and be transferred to another target. Hence, if voters legalize pot, there will be another moral "crisis" to replace the prison inmate population thus lost.
We're losing the ability to argue, or even discuss issues. At all levels of politics, it's all about calling people names today. It works, because too many of us have chosen (emphasize this word, chosen) to be too stupid to know the difference between argument and aspersion. It thus seems perfectly logical to censor a presenter at a university, even one we can choose not to listen to. In a country where we worry much about how to pay for a higher education, and not at all about what's in it.
Yeah. Fair enough. People have a right to speak whatever the hell they want, it's called free speech for a reason. Why should they stop an invited speaker because tumblr doesn't agree with them? I've been pisssed off or the last few days about free speech, because of people who stop others saying what they will in the name of 'political correctness' or whatever. That isn't free speech. I think that having trigger warning and safe spaces is just plain dumb. And deep down, I'm fairly sure that everybody thinks that to an extent. If you can't face the music, don't put in on in the first place.
I agree with everyone else on here. Good on them for placing freedom of ideas and speech over the feelings of entitled students searching desperately for things to be outraged about.
As an "academic" myself (PhD candidate, student teacher), I feel very passionate about intellectual freedom at universities. A university is not a place to shelter oneself from the outside world--it's not a place to shut oneself in with like-minded individuals and shield your fragile mind from intellectual challenge. In fact, it is quite the opposite in its ideal form: to facilitate intellectual challenge.
At the same time, I must wonder, what exactly is an "intellectual safe space"? Are we speaking of small on-campus clubs and organizations that have the right to set their own rules and parameters? If this is the case, then the "Republican club" in question that lauded this move on behalf of the university staff would fall under the definition of "safe space", would they not? Clearly this edict is not targeting all clubs or organizations. Clearly an campus LBGT group would still be allowed to exist.
It seems to me instead that this is targeting the idea that some courses should shun opposing viewpoints, that some courses (such as, let's say, a course on feminism) would not present challenges to feminist doctrine, that some classes would not recognize the "other side" because the "other side" is "problematic", that some courses would allow students to opt out of having to experience differing viewpoints by giving them "trigger warnings". In this case I wholeheartedly agree with the university's move. University courses, especially those in the humanities (because let's face it, that's what's being targeted here) are not meant to provide one with a one-sided worldview, they are supposed to foster debate and argument, they are supposed to allow the student to come up with their own views and arguments and not censor those that don't fall in line with the mainstream progressive position.
Provided that my understanding is correct, that this is not targeting campus clubs but is rather targeting the intellectual climate of humanities courses, then this can only be a good thing. I sometimes worry about my generation, the "millennials". Are we really so delicate, so close-minded, so afraid of opposition? Are we really made so queasy and uncomfortable by debate, by history, by challenge?
At least from the results of this thread, the millennials are taking the side of intellectual freedom, and that is refreshing to me.
I thought safe spaces were places for people to go when they are having panic attacks? I guess I was wrong then.
However I think trigger warnings are important. If someone has been seriously abused/ witnessed a murder etc etc, they at least deserve a warning before content that could trigger PTSD/cause them emotional distress.
The only places that ever actually refer to themselves as "safe spaces" tend to be of this type.
So that does make me wonder: can we have a definition and example of a "safe space"? One perhaps that this letter would target and one that it would not? I'll admit that when I hear the term I tend to forget that some safe spaces (like this very website) are needed and my immediate reaction tends to be along the lines of "rawr...censorship...pussy millennials!" But I recognize that all entities labeled "safe spaces" are not of this type.
It seems to me that "safe space" is now becoming a buzzword that is thrown around casually without a clear definition in the minds of those who use it.
I agree with you that the word is too carelessly thrown around.
Frankly in terms of safe space as in a place where one can feel like they won't be harassed or threatened, I really hope that every classroom is a safe space.
But... Hmm, I don't know.
At the very least, teachers need to let kids go into the hall or to the bathroom when they're having panic attacks. I once was unable to leave during class when I had one, and I hyperventilated. I had to curl into a ball on the floor to keep from passing out.
I'm so glad at least one university actually gets it. If you want a "safe space" where nobody's allowed to disagree with you, go home and turn off the TV. Welcome to reality, the world is not going to coddle you.
I agree with you.
I don't think universities should censor speeches and that sort of thing because they might be "offensive". Without debates and without different points of view, the development of knowledge and critical thinking is compromised.
If a person says something inside an university that might be offensive, then that is an opportunity to have a debate and talk about the topic. Inside the university, censoring that person or the debate is not a good solution.
Otherwise, we create a great risk of divinizing some points of view, while automatically rejecting others. That is not rational thinking, and that's not the objective of universities.
I'm not saying that there aren't sensitive and vulnerable people. However, when you enter a course in the university, your objective is to learn about the topic (for instance, Biology) and how the topic permeates other subjects in our society. And you need to hear different points of view, that's part of the "path" to become a scientist. If you don't hear different points of view, if you don't debate, if you don't talk about controversial things, your scientific "training" will be compromised. The objective of an university is not to teach you just the technical stuff: You need to know the different points of view permeating the course, so you can think and see what you agree/disagree with.
And this I think is a key point of difference. If "safe space" means "place where you will not encounter harassment or threats for your views, then who would disagree with it? It seems to me that a more extreme definition of "safe space" is being employed here: a place where you will not encounter disagreement or challenges to your views. That, I think, is what is fundamentally at odds with a healthy intellectual climate.
Agreed. If you don't wish to hear a certain speaker, then don't attend their speech! But don't prevent others from listening to them if they want to.
I know the United States has different ideas and values about free speech to other countries and they are not values that I personally share. I think the American notion of free speech sometimes fosters an "anything goes" culture that can be detrimental and harmful. It follows that I consider this a bad decision by the University of Chicago.
We should really focus on a world where we are kind to one another, but can still share our different beliefs. Isn't that the best thing about college? We are (typically) young people, learning our way through the world. I'd be SOOOOO effing happy to have people with different beliefs, not 40 other typical people just like me.
The quoted material is inaccurate about what constitutes "intellectual safe space." There is no such thing as "intellectual" safe space. There's just safe space. Use of the word "intellectual" here is disingenuous because it implies that a main goal of safe space is to alter the course of classroom content for everyone. That's not actually true.
Safe spaces are moderated spaces by and for a group of people who are marginalized by oppression with the expectation that they can create and manage the boundaries of their own space.
In concrete terms:
Safe space means the university's womens center. Or the LGBT center. Or the students of color center. Or the access center. It is not nor was ever meant to be the classroom itself. (One exception: if the central focus of the academic course content is a segment of marginalized people, then a rationale for safe spaces applies.)
Thank you for clarifying. This is what I assumed was the actual definition of "safe space", and that this issue of classrooms becoming "safe spaces" where "problematic opinions" are silenced and shunned was for the most part, a made-up issue perpetuated by the alt-right.
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't tread carefully; sometimes we do come close to academic censorship, and coming at this from an academic point of view, that is problematic. We should not be shutting down opposing viewpoints. At the same time, all "safe spaces" (even the "valid" ones) are being attacked now in the name of an issue that is being greatly exaggerated.
To not censor or stifle speech means that hate speech is allowed. It means that ignorant people are allowed to spout their racist, homophobic and otherwise bigoted views immune from appropriate consequences and that the university should ignore its responsibility of duty of care for its students.
Some 'opinions' are vile and bigoted and stupid and without any intellectual honesty. Some are not interested in debate. They are interested in the wholesale oppression or extermination of an entire race or other group of people.
And you would give them a voice? That is insanity.
Nobody is forcing a black person to get on a bus. So therefore they should just accept their position at the back of it? No. No, no and no again.
And if this person is an overt racist and is there to talk about how whites are superior to blacks and the 'science' behind it?
I would do all the above to stop such a hateful and intellectually devoid person from attending my university.
For example, if somebody has been raped and they do not wish to hear about rape talked about in detail then it is a good thing that they know to stay away from a speech which goes in to detail about rape.
Why is this unacceptable to you?
It is a phrase used by the enemies of true freedom and not by anybody who actually supports the idea of safe spaces.
A feminist course doesnt require an anti-feminist 'debate' for there to be debate and differing viewpoints. That is essentially the point of contention here.
Yes. But in the correct way.
For example, I would, of course, say that it is fine for students to learn about the Holocaust. But I would not allow for a neo-nazi to come in to give a lecture justifying it.
This is a strawman spread by enemies of safe spaces and trigger warnings.
I have no doubt that some students have misunderstood or misused these words and practices but I also have no doubt that that situation is not anywhere near as wide spread as has been suggested by institutions like the University of Chicago.
Nobody is arguing for that.
Some beliefs are unacceptable (ie racism). That is the point of contention here.
I would. But then again, I'm one of those ACLU types.
Who would want to silence Donald Trump? In the end, he's the best argument there is, against himself.
How exactly are they racist? Freedom of speech is awesome, and "safe spaces" often stifle that freedom because, unlike a GSA club or anything like that, it goes and censors people out in the public. :/