Letter to the Editor: Safe spaces

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“Is it safe?”

“You’re talking to me?”

“Is it safe?”

“Is what safe?”

“Is it safe?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I can’t tell you something’s safe or not, unless I know specifically what you’re talking about.”

“Is it safe?”

“Tell me what the ‘it’ refers to.”

“Is it safe?”

“Yes, it’s safe, it’s very safe, it’s so safe you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Is it safe?”

“No. It’s not safe, it’s… very dangerous, be careful.”

So goes Dustin Hoffman’s Babe under interrogation from Laurence Olivier’s Dr. Szell (assisted by a very menacing dental pick) in the ‘70s classic movie “Marathon Man.” Hoffman brings intensity, desperation and pleading into a performance that touches our deepest fears as he searches for the one answer to stop brutal, impending pain. This depth is in stark contrast to The Daily’s recent editorial (“Despite Schapiro’s advocacy, safe spaces are not guaranteed,” May 7) which only promotes an intellectually vacuous plea for yet more “safe spaces” on campus.

The notion of “safe spaces,” much less their propagation, only serves to demean Northwestern University and the concept of intellectual growth during college. If The Daily’s goal is to perpetuate a generational reputation of students unable to deal with the real world, then its advocacy only reinforces that idea. To say that the top high school graduates of this country and around the globe are clinically incapable of interacting with any human not identified as safe or similarly-identifying begs the question, “Why are you even going to college?”

More dangerously, this thinking changes the dynamic from the university as a benign, administration in loco parentis to mommy-with-a-bottle. First, you must declare yourself part of one or more identity politics groups which, naturally, have some grievance. Second, the university must provide these self-identified victims a physical area for their exclusive use. Of course this space must be in a place of the person/group’s liking because… well aren’t we all entitled to the best real estate? And last, leaving the “safe space” is a de facto act of bravery into a hostile world of… just the outside world (or merely the confines of campus). The resulting contact would necessitate further counseling, mental health evaluation, and another “safe space” within the “safe space.”

And so in one last bit of irony, Olivier’s Szell remarks, “I envy you your school days. Enjoy them fully. It’s the last time in your life no one expects anything of you.” Unfortunately for Northwestern, it seems everyone wants to drill into a live nerve.

Sincerely yours,
Alexander W. Stephens, WCAS ’87