“Safe space” has become a rather in vogue term as of late, with college students and others across the country taking to the streets, side walks, and campus buildings to demand safe spaces. Some rather clever administrators at The Ohio State University decided to flip the script, however, and demanded that students vacate the premise of an administration building. The administrators' reasoning? The students were creating a hostile environment that threatened the “safe space” of employees who were due to show up for work in a few hours.

An administrator approached the students in the early morning hours and told the students to clear out by 5am, or be arrested. What makes this particular instance interesting is the rational behind the administrators' demands. The University, they explained, was simply trying to make sure that its employees feel safe, and that they were entitled to their own safe space. As one administrator put it:

“Our goal, because I want you to understand why we would do something like this—I didn’t think we were going to—but the consensus of university leaders is that the people who work in this building should be protected also."

"They come to work around 7 o’clock.

Do you remember when you all made the rush down there and chanted to the folks outside the doors a minute ago?"

"That scared people”

Following the confrontation, all of the students did leave the premise on their volition, and no one was arrested or forcibly removed. Compared to past tactics, which have involved police pepper spraying and physically removing students, the “judo talk” implemented by the administrators was both effective and benign.

The students in this case were demanding financial transparency, and also an explanation of how the university was spending its money. That's certainly not an unreasonable request. Whether or not the University will acquiesce to the students' demands, however, remains unclear.

The On-going Safe Space Debate

In case you're not up-to-date on the safe space debate, students across the country have been arguing that they have a right to a “safe space” where they do not feel threatened or harassed.

On the face of it, this seems like a rational enough of a request, but as racial tensions and other issues have cropped up on university campuses, critics charge that these so-called safe spaces are threatening free speech.

For example, professors have complained about having to place trigger warnings in class syllabuses and having to censor contentious topics, such as sexual violence. While such topics might be uncomfortable to talk about, it's arguable that discussing them is important for intellectual and personal growth.

Further, sweeping such topics under the rug doesn't solve the problem. Far from it, such censorship could actually enable and worsen said problems, and stifle the intellectual activity and resources that might be used to address them.

Safe spaces and censorship

Many have also argued that the push to create safe spaces is resulting in rampant censorship. At the University of Missouri a student reporter was threatened for trying to acquire information and photographs about protesters holding a sit in on outdoor, public property.

A professor even called for “muscle” to remove him.

At Yale University, a husband and wife duo of professors/resident life administrators, Nicholas and Erika Christakis came under fire after Erika sent out an email asking students to consider Halloween customs through an intellectual lens. Why? Because the professors refused to outright censor students and ban certain, potentially offensive customs. The two quickly found themselves at the center of a heated controversy and were even accosted in public by students. Erika ended up quitting her job over the matter.

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