California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Opinions Need Safety And Criticism

    The University of Chicago recently distributed a letter to incoming first years that the university does not support “trigger warnings” or “safe spaces.” What does this mean for discussion of difficult conversations across other college campuses?

    First, what must be defined is the word “safe space”. As defined by UoC and its letter, it is a space for students to “retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

    This, on paper, seems a reasonable request made by UoC but it  is essentially a warning to incoming students. A warning that states there will be no coddling of opinions nor sheltering from opposition. Where your opinions will be called into question and disagreement will be as common as the contrary.

    “As a university community, beliefs and opinions should always be open to scrutiny or close examination.  Beliefs and opinions might even become stronger, but other beliefs and opinions that may be based on erroneous facts or steeped in prejudice and bias should be challenged,” Juanita Hall, Senior Director of Multicultural and International Student Services, said in an email interview.

    Hall is at the forefront of leading constructive and often difficult conversations for students, as she is the leader of “Difficult Dialogues” at California Lutheran University. Her stance, similar to UoC’s, is one that wishes to do away with this overprotection.

    Additionally, as incoming first years come to universities like Cal Lutheran, it is natural for most of them to encounter disagreements in and out of the classroom, but that disagreement shouldn’t be avoided, nay welcomed and encouraged.

    “This is how we grow together as human beings, productive members of society and global leaders, “ Hall said.

    The implementation of these spaces seems highly destructive to the community discussion and discourse in general and has fostered a firm opposition to them from faculty like Hall. However, there are some that view the idea as ill-defined.

    “I create safe spaces in all of my classes. I don’t create them to avoid controversial topics but to deal with them.” said religion professor Peter Carlson.

    This is what higher education is supposed to be accomplishing in the first place. Institutions like UoC and Cal Lutheran are places where opinions and positions should be challenged, but in a healthy way.

    What this letter seems to be doing is forgetting that the voices of these marginalized communities continually find themselves in positions where their voice is not heard, not respected and in some cases violently disagreed with.

    “The reason you create a safe space is not so that people can feel comfortable, but so that they quite literally feel safe,” Carlson said.

    Here at Cal Lutheran, it is the safe spaces that allow free discussion of issues that are challenging but it has been seen  by Carlson that the interaction of students helps work through the difficulty.

    The goal should be to oppose that status quo, to eradicate the idea that a person cannot share their opinion if the opinion is in the minority. They should be able to share their opinion, however it is the audience and their peers that pose the most danger to a stagnate conversation.

    “Too often, it seems that trigger warnings and safe spaces are seen as devices of the liberal academy to make college easier. My classes are anything but easy. But I think they are safe spaces. I teach Queer Theology, you’re going to be dealing with some really hard subjects and I can offer a safe classroom for that,” Carlson said.

    Carlson is offering something that most, if not all professors want for their students: a safe environment for discussion to happen.

    Without this necessary aspect of high education, what is to be expected from the future generations, that college is a place where opinions are only validated and not questioned? Not so under Carlson’s and Hall’s watch.

    Connor McKinney
    Staff Writer