Safe space critics ‘have no understanding of this generation,’ Schapiro tells new students


(Daily file photo by Jacob Swan)

University President Morton Schapiro speaks at an event. Schapiro said while he has been called “king of the snowflakes,” he defends safe spaces on campus.

Erica Snow, Campus Editor

University President Morton Schapiro blasted Fox News and stressed the importance of safe spaces in a speech to new students Monday.

Schapiro said during his convocation address that he is frequently misunderstood by conservative commentators because of his previous articles defending safe spaces, which he defined as places on campus where students can find friends and build the confidence to have difficult conversations.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there about your generation being called by Fox News and others ‘snowflakes,’ and they call me the ‘king of the snowflakes,’” Schapiro told new students. “They have no understanding of this generation. … They have no idea what truly a safe space means and what truly uncomfortable learning means.”

Schapiro said clubs, music groups and religious groups could qualify as safe spaces, and that other universities may misconstrue the intentions of safe spaces.

Associated Student Government President Nehaarika Mulukutla told The Daily it is important for freshmen to know they can find a community on campus that makes them feel accepted.

“It’s incredibly important that President Schapiro chose to … tell that class effectively that you have a space on this campus to not be perfect,” the Weinberg senior said. “You’re going to gain the strength, confidence and the support from the community around you from these safe spaces to be able to handle your Wildcat experience.”

Medill freshman Heena Srivastava told The Daily that Schapiro wasn’t afraid to be “shamelessly liberal,” and his speech seemed welcoming.

She said she agreed with Schapiro’s message about safe spaces — though the term safe space may be a buzzword, she said there’s “no room for disagreement” that students must feel safe to share their opinions.

“It’s necessary for us to have dialogue of any kind while establishing that we all feel safe,” Srivastava said. “He really emphasized that there’s a difference between safety and comfort.”

Schapiro said he does not see classrooms as safe spaces because students must be prepared to have their ideas challenged and debated.

He also encouraged new students to adopt “Midwestern values” of humility and a lack of entitlement. Schapiro ended his address with advice for new students to continue a lifetime of learning.

“A lot about the world of Northwestern is uncomfortable,” Schapiro said. “Embrace that uncomfortable learning, but do it from a position of strength. I sure hope you care about healing the world, a world that you’re inheriting that’s an absolute stinking mess. … I hope you feel that when you’re going to go out into the world, you’re going to give back.”

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