‘Safe Spaces’ and the Educational Benefits of Diversity
50 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017 Last revised: 27 Apr 2018
Date Written: March 29, 2017
This Article examines and defends “safe spaces” on university campuses. Safe spaces are campus programs and organizations that are devoted to the needs and experiences of marginalized groups—especially students of color. These spaces are critiqued for a variety of reasons, from promoting balkanization on campuses to sheltering minority students from particular viewpoints. This Article argues that these critiques are off base, and it aims to address them and reframe the discourse on diversity in the process. Safe spaces provide valuable support mechanisms for students of color at predominantly White universities. The Supreme Court has recognized that these students can often feel “isolated or like spokespersons for their race,” and safe spaces can help them with social and cultural adjustment. Moreover, safe spaces that focus on one group, such as residential programs devoted to Black heritage and experiences, are open and welcoming to students of all backgrounds. For White and other outgroup students, these safe spaces can provide the opportunity for immersion within a particular minority group, allowing them to learn about issues that do not come up in predominantly White settings. The conversations and debates that occur between students turn safe spaces into miniature “marketplaces of ideas,” where unique cross-racial exchanges can occur. Such exchanges epitomize the educational benefits of diversity upheld as a compelling interest in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin II (2016).
Keywords: Safe Spaces, Diversity
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