It's that time of year when parents take their kids off to college. And when they say good-bye, many will add, "Be safe."
But "safe" has a whole new meaning on campuses today, far beyond staying out late or drinking too much. "Safe" -- and "safe spaces" -- now means a protected bubble with no nasty comments, no judgment or criticism, nothing that might make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Which can make people feel uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago, a junior at the well-regarded Claremont Colleges in
"POC only," she wrote, meaning "people of color only." She added, "I don't want to live with any white folks."
One might put that in the "making people uncomfortable" pile. Instead the post went viral, and the student,
She was supported online by a number of peers.
"White people always mad when they don't feel included but at the end of the day y'all are damaging asf (as f---)," wrote a woman named Terriyonna Smith.
"White people have cause(d) so much mf trauma on these campuses ... why in the world would I want to live with that?" added a woman named
Both women were identified as resident assistants at the college. This means, according to the job description, they serve as "counselors" to younger students in the dorms.
Counselors? Making those statements?
Added Saint-Fleur, "Bring that (white people trauma) into my home? A place that is supposed to be safe for me?"
There's that word again. Safe.
Now, it's enough that "safe spaces" have become such a mainstay concept that
It's enough that
Her husband, a
It's enough that "safe" has led to censored texts, censored speakers, censored hand gestures, protests of comments made, protests of comments not made and "trigger warnings," which are cautions now on assigned readings that something inside might offend you.
But when "safe" is used to justify telling one group they're not welcome because of the color of their skin -- "I don't want to live with any white folks" -- by groups that have felt unwelcome because of the color of their skin, aren't we flirting with the absurd?
Now, it's true, college can be challenging, and students of color or atypical backgrounds can face hurdles that others do not. Schools should do whatever is possible to ensure all students feel supported.
But unless you plan to live on your parents' couch forever, the idea of spaces so "safe" you hear nothing you don't like will quickly disappear with the cap and gown. So how does this prepare students for the real world?
You could argue that college should be the opposite, a place where new and uncomfortable ideas -- even criticism -- help shape your own viewpoint, develop your thinking, prepare you for choices you'll have to make after graduation.
Yes. And demanding such coddling after college will only get you criticized, laughed at or fired.
Of course, much of this entitlement comes -- as all things with children do -- from the parents. So when you drop your kids at the dorms, perhaps remind them that being "safe" doesn't mean hear nothing upsetting, see nothing upsetting, say anything you want -- and expect to be protected because those are your feelings.
There's a phrase for this as well.
It's called growing up.