College. The name in itself does not sound like a safe space. Parents and faculty alike are concerned for personal well-being for students. Before arriving at Elon, freshmen take an online alcohol safety class and probably have discussions with their parents about how to avoid rape and sexual harassment.

Intellectual questioning, challenging, and uncomfortable situations in the classroom do happen at Elon. The classroom is a place where Elon faculty and staff make it a unique place to learn providing an atmosphere where students challenge each other and the professor by using research and thought.

“How are you ever going to learn if you’re comfortable and how are you going to learn if everyone around you is like tiptoeing around everyone’s feelings,” Paige Poupart, a senior walking into the Center for Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Education (CREDE) questioned?

She said college is a place to grow and sometimes there are growing pains.

“We want to have rich conversations where students engage you know difficult ideas and challenging ideas and ideas they disagree with, but we also do want to be sensitive to students who may have past trauma,” Joel Harter, Associate Chaplain of Protestant Life, said.

Poupart believes using disrespectful language is not okay in any learning environment, in her eyes, but she supports challenging others beliefs and diversity of thought.

Harter said Elon wants safe spaces, but having intellectual conversation that promotes freedom of speech takes priority.

“The university obviously wants there to be safe spaces for our students,” Harter said, “or at least safer spaces because I don’t think they can ever be completely safe.”

Each faculty member has the choice to create the climate of the classroom, which sets the precedent for the semester. There can be a fine line between stepping on toes and making whispered voices yelled, a balance between voices and students of varying backgrounds.

At Wake Forest University, Angela Mazaris is the Director of the LGBTQ Center. She said on her first day of class she was going to craft a set of classroom agreements.

“I’m taking a feminist pedagogical model where students will make an agreement on how they would like to approach difficult material and how to foster an environment of mutual classroom respect,” Mazaris says.

She believes the educational process is a transformational experience. Students will be challenged and will encounter new material. She explains at times there may be tensions with students because some experiences may be impactful and influential, while those same experiences may be hostile for other students.

People are bound to feel uncomfortable in the classroom, but that does not mean safe spaces at Elon do not exist. Like Wake Forest, Elon has a Gender and LGBTQIA Center. Both there and the CREDE are located on the second floor of Moseley Campus Center.

The Numen Lumen Pavilion in the Academic Village welcomes students to the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and also encourages a safe environment.

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While Poupart may spend time in the CREDE she expects to be challenged in the classroom.

“You need to be able to speak your mind, because if you can’t speak your mind and you’re so worried about being politically correct, how are you going to learn?” Poupart said.

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