Safe spaces on campus supported and questioned by students following election

Haley Candelario

The term ‘safe spaces’ refers to areas of a university campus where those in marginalized communities can go in order to empathetically discuss their experiences with others.

On the Colorado State University campus, many students consider the diversity offices to be safe spaces, while others do not think safe spaces hold any significance.

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Em Boyett, a student aid member of the Women and Gender Advocacy Center and junior psychology major, said the WGAC office is a safe space because of the inclusive environment.

“I come in here to just hang out, or if I’m feeling upset or if the campus at that point in time is not safe,” Boyett said. “I’ll come here because I know that I’m included, my needs will be met, and I will be safe.”

Boyett added that the WGAC office was a place of comfort following the news of President Donald Trump’s election.

“I personally got a lot of threats for being queer after the election, so I spent a lot of time in here because I didn’t feel comfortable walking through the Plaza,” Boyett said. “I just stayed in here (to) not deal with the tension that was going on on campus.”

Originally, safe spaces were used by members of the Queer community but have since expanded to include racial and ethnic minorities.

The Pride Resource Center is located on the first floor of the Lory Student Center. Originally, safe spaces were used by members of the Queer community. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

Claudia Perez, a first year communications major and participant in El Centro’s La Conexión program, considers El Centro a safe space because she can connect with other Latinos on campus.

“A safe space is a place where you can be and not feel threatened in any way, whether that be emotionally or socially, or something that makes you uncomfortable,” Perez said. “For me (El Centro) is my safe space because, on other places on campus, it’s hard to find a lot of other Latinos… so this is my safe space where I can come in and not feel like I stand out.”

Although many students consider the diversity offices to be safe spaces, others are not sure they should be.

Syd Sahota, the inclusive community assistant at the Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center, considers the office a personal safe space but understands that others might not agree.

“I have a hard time considering everything a safe space,” Sahota said. “I think it’s really hard to say something is a safe space, but not necessarily hold the whole ideal together … a safe space is very different depending on the individual, and it’s hard to guarantee safety for every single person.”

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“While I think that all the SDPS offices strive to be as safe a space as possible, it’s kind of hard for me to say that everywhere is a safe space in the diversity offices,” Sahota continued. “I would consider (APACC) a safe space here for me. I can’t speak for anyone else that comes into this office … I think they all strive to be safe spaces, but I think the idea of a single safe space for everyone is kind of a false concept.”

Aaric Guerriero, the director of the Pride Resource Center, agrees that not everyone will consider the diversity offices to be safe spaces.

“It’s natural that not everyone is going to find a home in all the diversity offices, but the important thing is that students know we exist, and that they know they can reach out to us if they need support, guidance or even need referrals to campus and local resources,” Guerriero said. “I think it would be unrealistic to say that we will be a safe space for every person on this campus to reach out to us, but the important thing is that students who do find us … they keep utilizing us. Hopefully the more visibility we have, the more that people will be able to reach out to us and feel connected.”

Guerriero added that the Pride Resource Center recently started the Safe Zone program, a three-hour training open to faculty, staff and students to reduce homophobia on the CSU campus.

Other students consider the Key Communities a safe space, such as Dominica Manlove, a freshman majoring in biochemistry.

“I’m in Key Health Professions, and I feel like that’s a safe space,” Manlove said. “We’re all health professions, and we all want to succeed, so we all help each other in those hard classes to succeed. It’s not like you’re own your own.”

One CSU student, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they do not believe safe spaces are significant.

“The term safe space is just entirely ridiculous,” the student said. “What do people hope to achieve with a safe space, and what are they going to protect themselves from? There’s a difference between a safe space and a place that you would call home. My dorm room (is a place) I can go to and do my own thing. A safe space is literally a public place. It’s pointless.”

“What’s actually protecting a safe space becomes the question, and the answer is really nothing. It’s literally a place you can go to say that you are safe,” the student continued. “There’s no physical ways of actual protection from anything or anyone. It’s a way that millennials, including people my age, can try to feel better about themselves, like, ‘Oh look, we’re doing something.’”

Collegian reporter Haley Candelario can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.