Brown University’s ‘Safe Space’

Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, explained the university’s reasoning for providing a “safe space” for students on the college campus in an op-ed published in The Washington Post.

“Freedom of expression is an essential component of academic freedom, which protects the ability of universities to fulfill their core mission of advancing knowledge,” said Paxson.

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“As scholars and students, our responsibility is to subject old truths to scrutiny and put forward new ideas to improve them.”

She never discussed, however, how this creation of a “safe space” intrudes on the space and rights of other people.

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Paxson mentioned the history and definition of “safe space” and stated that Brown “proudly” provides this opportunity for students.

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Christina Paxson of Brown Univ.

“The term emerged from the women’s movement nearly 50 years ago to refer to forums where women’s rights issues were discussed,” Paxson claimed. “Then it was extended to denote spaces where violence and harassment against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community would not be tolerated, and then extended yet again to mean places where students from marginalized groups can come together to feel comfortable discussing their experiences and just being themselves.”

While acknowledging current political and social issues, Paxson said universities face the challenge of creating safe and just campuses while simultaneously living in a divided community — “moral responsibility” is necessary to properly deal with these issues.

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“At Brown, as at many institutions of higher education, we are not coddling our students — or limiting freedom of expression,” she said, straining to make the point.

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“Instead, we are teaching them, encouraging them, and giving them the space to have the discussions that will make them better scholars and prepare them to best serve society.”

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