Student Scolds University President on ‘Safe Spaces’ — the Response She Gets Makes Her Storm Out

A group of students at Northern Arizona University are calling on the institution’s president to resign unless she designates the campus a “safe space” for all students.

During a university forum, sophomore Breanna Kramer scolded university President Rita Cheng for failing to “take action in situations of injustice.”

“How can you promote safe spaces, if you don’t take action in situations of injustice?” the student asked. “Such as last week, when we had the preacher on campus, and he was promoting hate speech against marginalized students? As well as not speaking out against racist incidents like blackface two months ago by student workers followed by no reform and no repercussions?”

As the student found out moments later, Cheng actually doesn’t support students insulating themselves in so-called “safe spaces.” Here’s how Cheng responded:

“As a university professor, I’m not sure I have any support at all for safe space. I think that you, as a student, have to develop the skills to be successful in this world, and that we need to provide you with the opportunity for discourse and debate and dialogue and academic inquiry, and I’m not sure that that is correlated with the notion of safe space as I’ve seen that.”

Clearly dissatisfied with the university president’s answer, Kramer and mostly members of the group she was with, the Student Action Coalition, staged a “walkout.”

NAU President Rita Cheng/NAZ Today

The group later claimed in a statement that Cheng’s answer was “insufficient” and called on her to resign if she is “not ready or willing to engage in these serious conversations.”

Cheng clarified her position on safe spaces further in an interview with 12 News.

“NAU is safe. Creating segregated spaces for different groups on our campus only [leads] to misunderstanding, distrust and [reduces] the opportunity for discussion and engagement and education around diversity.” she said.
“Our classrooms and our campus is a place for engagement and respect — a place to learn from each other. NAU is committed to an atmosphere that is conducive to teaching and learning.”

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