Students discuss meaning of a "safe space

By Matt Day

About 20 students met in the Dupre Formal Lounge Wednesday afternoon to discuss the concept of “safe space” and its role at Macalester. The event, part of the Tapas series of discussions sponsored by the Department of Multicultural Life, was structured as a response to Macalester students’ questions and concerns about the lack of spaces on campus where they feel comfortable talking about controversial topics.The first part of the conversation focused on defining “safe space.”

Department of Multicultural Life volunteer Reed Boskey ’10, who helped guide the conversation, defined “safe space” as, “An environment conducive to dialogue in which people respect each other, share opinions, and challenge each other’s ideas without attacking each other.”

The discussion then moved toward the role of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and Professor Peter Rachleff’s Historians and Critical Race Theory class as places with an opportunity to create safe spaces on campus.

Boskey said the goal of the Tapas series is “to provide space for conversation between students about issues important to us as young people and at Macalester in general.”

“I think everyone could benefit from a Tapas-like discussion,” said Hillary Mohaupt ’08, who participated in the conversation. “I had a really good time and I think I learned a lot.”

Elise Dempsey ’10, who co-organized the discussion with Boskey, said she thought the event was a positive step for the campus.

“We had a good discussion,” she said. “I think it was very productive.”

The discussion was inspired in part by an article in The Mac Weekly on Oct. 19 about the possibility of a race-based enrollment policy in Rachleff’s class that addressed how the presence of white students could affect the degree to which the class serves as a safe space.