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Free Speech, Safe Spaces, and Teaching in the Current US Political Climate

By Jaime Weida

Abstract:

The designation of “safe spaces” within the university classroom and campus as a whole has recently received a great deal of attention and criticism. Opponents of these spaces claim that they are a danger to free speech and critical academic thought in the university, and that they treat students like children rather than competent adults. In the current “Trump era,” it has become common for many people, including prominent public figures, to cite free speech as a justification for hate speech and repressive ideologies. I contend there is a war on free speech in the United States within and without the university and that the seeming promotion of free speech is actually a way to silence free speech and the discourses of marginalized groups. By designating our classroom as safe spaces, especially in diverse urban university settings, we are actually preserving our students’ free speech as well as our own academic freedom.

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