Earlier this month, two white students at Ryerson University in Canada were dismissed from a meeting of the Racialized Students’ Collective, a university group funded through the Ryerson Students’ Union. The university’s student newspaper, The Ryersonian, reported the RSU coordinator confirmed the students were excluded for being white. Last week Aeman Ansari, a fourth year journalism student at the school posted a blog entry on HuffPo Canada defending the decision.
Ansari ably and convincingly defends her belief that safe spaces are important. Ansari’s defense falls short for failing to explain why taxpayers, the university, and other students should fund them as exclusionary campus events.
Specifically, Ansari opines that:
[T]he point to note is not that two white students were asked to leave the event, but rather that this was a safe space …
…This group and these sort of events allow people of colour to lay bare their experiences and to collectively combat this societal ailment. These spaces are rare places in the world not controlled by individuals who have power, who have privilege.
…The presence of any kind of privilege puts unnecessary pressure on the people of colour to defend any anger or frustrations they have, to fear the outcome of sharing their stories. The attendees are trying to move forward by supporting each other and they should not have to defend themselves, they should not fear the consequences of raising their voices.
Let us get out of the way that I dislike people who cannot deal with opposition, who will only defend their opinions to friendly crowds, or who must banish dissent to feel validated.
I prefer feisty tanglers to special snowflakes.
It is neither here nor there. Special snowflakes are entitled to their preferences too, and everyone deserves an occasional session in the echo chamber. I agree with Ansari that safe spaces are important.
Where I disagree with Ansari is her implicit insistence that other students and Canadian taxpayers pay for them as exclusionary campus events. She never gets around to explaining or defending this aspect of her position.
The fact is “safe spaces” already exist.
They are called “private property.” Private homes, leased apartments, backyards, and private event venues can all be used to host exclusionary events. In addition, private conversations take place every day in bars, restaurants, coffee shops, conference rooms, sidewalks and parks.
That there are insufficient opportunities for people to have private conversations seems false on its face. If certain students want to get together to talk about their experiences only with a carefully selected crowd, there is no shortage of opportunities or “spaces” to do just that.
Private, exclusionary discussions and events should be conducted privately. Forcing other people to pay for and host them is a new form of bullying—a new incarnation of an old segregation.