The Tools of Campus Activists Are Being Turned Against Them

Apr 23, 2016

By Conor Friedersdorf

At UC Davis, where student activists still hope to oust Chancellor Linda Katehi, critics of their activism are using concepts like “safe space” and “hostile climate” to attack it.

The student activists had occupied a small room outside Katehi’s office, planning to stay until their chancellor resigned or was removed from her post. By the time they left 36 days later, a petition that now bears roughly 100 signatures of UC Davis students and staff were demanding that they prematurely end their occupation, criticizing their tactics, and alleging a number of grave transgressions: The signatories accused the student activists of sexism, racism, bullying, abuse, and harassment, complaining that many who used the administration building “no longer feel safe.” The student activists say that those charges are unfair.

The conflict illustrates a pattern that campus observers are likely see more and more in coming years: Insofar as progressives succeed in remaking campuses into places unusually sensitive to psychological harms, where transgressing against “safe spaces” is both easy to do and verboten, confrontational activism will no longer be viable.

Too many people feel upset by it.

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5 comments on “The Tools of Campus Activists Are Being Turned Against Them

  • The concept of safe spaces is deeply flawed. It represents a kind of selfish cowardice and an inability to be a responsible and contributing adult citizen prepared to engage with reality. It is entirely to be found amongst the under informed and the under thought-through. Once they have exhausted their thin pitch, used up their ad hominems, their maligning of intentions in place of seeking a real comprehension of motives, they move on to silencing. This impoverishing of debate of properly dealing with problems and building a mutuality of sorts with EVERYONE, eventually spirals down in the meanest of spirits into end states like burqas, the ultimate vade mecum safe space for women (no, honestly, Darling), and Fox News, the perfect, safe, consolation for the fearful and bitter elderly (median viewer age 68).

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  • phil rimmer #2
    Apr 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    The concept of safe spaces is deeply flawed.

    The Victorians had “safe spaces” for those who felt threatened by reality and whose reactions were a threat to the real people around them.

    These “safe spaces” were known as “padded cells”, in establishments which kept the inmates well isolated from interactions with the outside world!

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  • “safe space” just sounds like a euphemism for a toilet cubicle. which is the only safe space you need in college. what’s more it’s already gender segregated for those frightened of biological differences and you have every right to complain if someone walks in and says something you don’t wish to hear

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