‘Safe Spaces’ and the Educational Benefits of Diversity

50 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017 Last revised: 27 Apr 2018

See all articles by Vinay Harpalani

Vinay Harpalani

Savannah Law School; Drake University Law School

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

Suggested Citation

Harpalani, Vinay, ‘Safe Spaces’ and the Educational Benefits of Diversity (March 29, 2017). 13 Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 117 (2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2942980

Vinay Harpalani (Contact Author)

Savannah Law School ( email )

United States
2158734476 (Phone)

Drake University Law School ( email )

2507 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50311
United States

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