And now for the blog equivalent of a shower thought.
Safe spaces and trigger warnings are the new bywords of the American right-wing, phrases used to instantly shut up any millennial liberal in conversation. Never mind these concepts were originally for the protection of PTSD victims like sexual assault survivors and soldiers by allowing them to opt out of lessons or conversations that could trigger a hellish attack of PTSD; safe spaces and trigger warnings are a sign that millennial America is just too weak to handle the facts of life.
The right-wing definition of a safe space is far from the original intent of the concept, but let’s work with it for a bit. According to right-wing critics, safe spaces are social settings or physical places where a person is protected from information that they might find disturbing or runs contrary to their preconceived notions.
As I took a shower today, occasionally glancing out the shower curtain to see my baby lovebird perched peacefully on the towel rod (I am trying to train him to not make a huge racket when the shower turns on), I asked myself: where are the biggest safe spaces in the country? If we are using the right-wing definition of the term, what institutions, specifically universities, are the biggest examples of a safe space?
My answer: BYU.
Now you have quickly switched over the Facebook and are ready to type out an angry comment about how wrong I am. Your defense of BYU is already formulating in your head. You are ready to open up a can of righteous indignation on my puny millennial brain.
But just wait a second. My point here is that we create safe spaces around us all the time. It’s a natural human instinct. And nowhere is this more clear than at BYU and its associated campuses on the American West Coast. The only difference is that I see many Mormons mocking the idea of safe spaces.
Using the right-wing definition of the term, BYU fulfills all the requirements of a safe space. It shields the students enrolled there from information that is true, but is potentially damaging to orthodox religious belief, never forcing them to face thoughts or ideologies outside of their seminary-enforced comfort zone. For example, the CES forces students to take religious classes, but in my experience among multiple professors at BYU-I, they are very careful to sidestep disconcerting issues about church doctrine or history. The name Fanny Alger doesn’t pop up a lot in religion classes.
Talking and reading about experiences among students at all BYU campuses, this pattern is common. Problematic issues are easily side-stepped. Everything has to have a gospel spin on it. Without fail, orthodox Mormon beliefs are treated not only as the norm, but the only way to live a true Christ centered life.
Beyond that, the CES system makes clear efforts to weed out unwanted influences in the lives of students. If you have the wrong sexual orientation on campus you are liable to get kicked out. Try doing that at any of the so-called liberal safe space campuses around the country.
You can’t show up on campus dressed differently than your classmates. Support groups for gay people get down and for a while the BYU-I Student Democrats were not allowed to meet under that name (although they are making a comeback, for BYU-I’s credit.)
Devotionals at all campuses constantly reinforce the same thing over and over, never challenging students to think outside of their preconceived ideas. For a college, it’s odd that the main push, from an administrative standpoint, is to keep people thinking about religion in the same way that they did in high school.
People love it. That’s fine. I am not trying to take that away from anybody. If this is an environment that you, as a Mormon, feel 100% comfortable with, then all power to you. But just recognize next time you use the term safe space with disgust or to make fun of millennials: BYU is the biggest example in the country.