What do the Diversity Center, the Women’s Center, and your favorite school club have in common? They can all be safe spaces.
Places like the Diversity Center and the Women’s Center were set up to give people a place to go to speak without fear. Dan Stell, a senior and ASPLU vice president, notes that they are valuable as safe spaces. Safe spaces, Stell says, are “[A]n environment where your identities will not be challenged or criticized […] where you are comfortable, truly embracing all the facets of your personality and sharing them with others.”
These places depend on the individual. Many find solace in the Diversity Center, but some get that comfort relaxing in a dorm room with friends. Places fromthe practice rooms in Mary Baker Russell to the track field or the counseling center can all be safe spaces.
Safe spaces don’t need to be physical locations, though. They can also be digital. For me, as a teenager, this took the form of texting. My parents couldn’t see or overhear my thoughts; it was just me and the friends I trusted to share secrets. Technology has expanded the range of options we have for the safe release of thoughts.
David Leon, senior, is a bit of a controversial figure on campus due to his role in hosting anonymous confessions pages. However, he believes he is helping PLU out, saying “The confessions page allows for an exchange and dialogue to take place amongst everyone affiliated with PLU and to really engage and facilitate widespread community support.”
Stell disagrees. He notes that confessions pages can lead to bullying without repercussions, saying, “There is no active dialogue when the posts there are anonymous, I would say that in order to have a safe space one must be open to the vulnerability of people knowing your thoughts and ideas.”
Stell continued, “I think that anonymity can be vitally important in keeping a safe space safe, but I would say it’s anonymity towards those that are not a part of it.” Just like me as a teenager, trust is needed for safe spaces to grow.
Leon agrees that anonymity is important. “It gives [people who post confessions] a sense of control over their personal safety but also how the world views their own individual lives […] The fact that we have the ability to cloak our sleeves but be able to share out struggles and have others relate is a powerful thing.” Leon thinks anonymity builds empathy. People can be nasty, but there is evidence for this empathy. Some have confessed about mental health issues and referred to professional help.
Stell concludes, “[These spaces] are environments where you begin to critically analyze the different identities that you have and question the privileges that go along with them.”
With this opportunity, a safe space can be the place for important conversations to start.