This coming May 4, the Associated Students Diversity Task Force will be hosting a panel discussing the concept of a “Safe Space.”
The Diversity Task Force is an Associated Students committee designed to provide recommendations to the AS Board on diversity issues while simultaneously working to foster an intra-campus dialogue on diversity.
It is in that latter capacity that the DTF is hosting “Not Here Not Now” on Thursday. “Not Here Not Now” will provide an opportunity to allow students to discuss the implications of safe space policies.
Megan Farwell is the director of the Resource and Outreach Programs, a collection of seven campus offices that provide information, advocacy, and activities related to a variety of potentially sensitive areas, including drugs, alcohol, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender issues and veteran’s support. Farwell defines a Safe Space as “a space that any person can come in to and realize what they express remains confidential and in a supportive and affirming environment.”
The ROP offices are examples of this definition of “Safe Space”—places where individuals can feel comfortable discussing issues of a sensitive nature. The Ethnic Student Center is another example of this sort of Safe Space.
Another sort of Safe Space, and one that’s generated some controversy as of late, is a Safe Space that codifies an audience restriction. Women in the Woods is an example of such a Safe Space. Event planners have historically applied for permission from the AS Board to restrict access to women only, so as to foster an environment in which women may feel comfortable.
Farwell hopes the event will lead to a discussion on the releation—if any—between the concept of Safe Space and an exclusionary principle. For Farwell, the justification of gender restriction at events like Take Back the Night involves a recognition of the fact that the “most sexual assault victims are women,” and that providing them with a comfortable environment is a way of “honoring their experiences.”
Scheduled panelists for “Not Here Not Now” include Maxx Tomlinson, a DTF member who raised the issue of Safe Spaces in regard to transgender individuals and their involvement in Take Back the Night, and Peter Graves, AS vice-president for legislative affairs. Other panelists include a Women’s Center representative and a representative from the ROP’s LGBTA office. Sue Guenter-Schlesinger of the Equal Opportunity Office will kick things off with a discussion of the definition of a “Safe Space” before serving as a moderator.
“Not Here Not Now: A Panel on Issues Surrounding Safe Space” is this Thursday, May 4, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Viking Union 565. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Marcella Tomlin at (360) 650-3463.