As campus politics becomes increasingly liberal on colleges and universities from coast to coast, administrators are finding more ways to give voice to the Left while silencing conservative students’ free speech in the process – through so-called “safe spaces.”
Safe spaces, are designated areas that are reportedly places where Leftists can say or express just about anything, but this does not seem to be the case for conservative students.
Turning Point USA and free speech advocates banded together with Marcus Fotenos – the former student body president of the University of Colorado-Boulder – to address the efforts of campus Leftists to silence conservatives. He addressed a discussion panel at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference last week.
Not safe for all
As a sophomore last year, Fotenos spearheaded a student-initiated effort to pass a ban through state legislature that would put an end to free speech zones on campus. He made some key arguments against “safe spaces” during the panel discussion.
"Essentially, safe spaces are places where students – or even community members, faculty, staff – can come together,” the conservative student said, rehashing the original idea behind safe spaced before giving his own interpretation, according to The Christian Post (CP). “In my mind, it is just an echo chamber for whatever policies they are pushing."
He was then asked to give a more detailed explanation of what safe spaces really stand for on his campus.
"I am trying to figure out what a safe space is, because when they have them up on campus, I go there and I don't feel very safe," Fotenos expressed. "If you are a white male, you are obviously very privileged. If you are conservative, you are in the wrong – you don't want to help poor people. You believe in the American dream. So, you are not welcome there. It is not a safe place for you."
The true intent behind safe spaces is quite different from what conservatives experiences on a daily basis.
“By definition, safe spaces are places on a college campus that are set up by administrators, faculty members or students to give a group of students who feel they have been offended by something or someone – a place where they can be free of conflict, criticism, opposing ideas or political debate,” CP informed.
Fotenos argued that liberals are embraced at the political zones, where conservatives are repelled and often intimidated.
"Just about anybody who disagrees with whoever founded the safe space is not welcome there and it is not a safe place for them," the Right-leaning student shared, according to CP. "I am battling over the language of it and the whole purpose."
He insisted that college administrators set up safe spaces in order to give more of a voice to liberal student groups, including the College Democrats and the Black Student Union.
"So, after the election, there was a lot of Black Student Alliance, Black Lives Matter groups that had safe spaces for their members, but if you weren't a part of their group, then it wasn't a welcome place for you," Fotenos recounted.
The vocal student then brought up the time when faculty members united with students to set up a safe space for progressive students on the opposite side of campus from where conservative homosexual speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak.
"They didn't talk to him,” Fotenos continued. “They didn't do anything, but they felt threatened. The hypocrisy is kind of unsettling because then they turn around and bash conservatives, and it's ridiculous."
Confused over whether or not safe spaces on campus are actually official, he was not even sure if there is a real process by which to set them up.
"You see them all over campus. Usually the offices of faculty are marked, 'This is a safe space for you and your allies,'" Fotenos shared. "OK, is it though? If you are a conservative student, it's not."
Looking at the legislation
The bill being pressed seeks to establish the standard exception for “reasonable time, place and manner” limitations on campus speech – in order to ensure that demonstrations do not interfere with a college’s academic mission by disrupting studies or classes.
“Once we limit free speech to a zone, we indicate to our students that free speech does not exist anywhere beyond that zone,” co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tim Neville (R-Colo.), proclaimed, according to Campus Reform. “That is not the message we want to send to future generations about our core values.”
Fotenos also had a few words about the new legislation, noting that his school’s speech zone policy was “loosely enforced” – at best.
“This bill will hold Colorado institutions of higher education accountable and ensure that students' First Amendment rights are not confined to a specific location,” the student leader told Campus Reform. “It additionally opens up the campuses to allow students to collect petition signatures for ballot measures and engage in the democratic process without the fear of selective enforcement and repercussions.”
He followed up with some words of advice.
“It is important for there to be student buy-in in any efforts that take place – since we are the ones who are directly impacted by any policy change,” Fotenos noted in regards to nationwide advocacy for free speech. “What I learned in working with the Colorado General Assembly is that state lawmakers do care about what students have to say and they want to support us in our causes. To get rid of 'free speech' zones nationwide, it is going to take students to stand up and say that 'enough is enough' and start to push back against administrations.”
The irony of safe spaces
Ironically, when students enjoying their safe space come into contact with media covering their protests, they exhibit anything but a love for free speech, as Leftist students have frequently been reported shutting journalists down while violently disposing of them, as described by California’s largest daily:
“The warning signs circle the protesters' tent encampment like guard towers: No media allowed,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “The activists say the tent city is meant to be a safe space. One problem: The tents are in the middle of a public, 1st Amendment-protected university quad.”
Besides claiming the area as their own and shutting down media coverage, liberal students taking advantage of their safe space zones used their privileged space to use physical force.
"The story of a student uprising led by black activists at the University of Missouri took an unexpected turn Monday when protesters and student journalists got into a clash over access,” the L.A. daily added. “A video of protesters surrounding and shoving a student photographer out of the way has since prompted indignation from journalists who say activists have gone to such great lengths to protect their own privacy and space that they have infringed on the rights of others.”
Uprisings empowered by safe spaces – such as the one described above – are believed to be ushering in a dangerous social tide – one that Fotenos says is “setting students up for failure.”
"Overall, they aren't helping students grow,” the Colorado student asserted, according to CP. “As a student, you can walk through campus and have your zoned-off areas. But when you get to the real world, it's not like that. You have to interact with one another. You have to interact with people that disagree with you and you can't go running off to your safe space when somebody disagrees."
He believes safe spaces are doing more harm than good.
"Safe spaces are not serving students in the best way possible,” Fotenos concluded “It is really a shame, especially for public institutions where tax money is going."