College Republicans’ ‘Safe Spaces are for Children’ sign draws criticism

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Isabella Cueto // News Editor

SprectrUM Treasurer Jeremy Penn walks past the Smith-Tucker Involvement Resource Center – the office space shared by Young and College Democrats and College Republicans – many times a day. The suite is on the way to the SpectrUM office space, and Penn said he is used to seeing posters in support of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton out of the corner of his eye. Yesterday, however, Penn noticed an addition to the glass door: “Safe spaces are for children.”

A paper with a neon yellow sign mocking the use of “safe spaces” at institutions of higher learning was reportedly posted by the College Republicans about a week ago. When Penn saw the paper, he took to his personal Facebook page to vent his frustrations, writing “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I am sick and tired of your signs.”

The post received more than 147 likes and several comments from students sharing similar thoughts.

“I was incredibly hurt by how incredibly dehumanizing it was to anyone who feels or experiences threats, especially physical ones, to their bodies and their safety,” Penn said in a Facebook message to The Miami Hurricane.

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Earl Generato, a junior biomedical engineering major who is also a member of SpectrUM, said he found the sign offensive because it promoted an idea that goes against what the student organization suite area of the Shalala Student Center represents: diversity of all kinds. The Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (Federation of Cuban Students), Council of International Student Organizations and United Black Students all have offices nearby.

“Signs like that are for children, for people who can’t understand the ways of other people and are not willing to see the perspective of other people,” he said.
Generato said safe spaces are not just a place for students to feel comfortable sharing their ideas. He said they are places for learning about the struggles others face and growing in empathy.

“We are all going through our own problems and we should all support each other,” he said.

UM College Republicans President Chris Dalton sent a statement to The Miami Hurricane in response to student reactions:

“College Republicans in no way endorses hatred or abuse of any kind. However, the sign will stay up because the movement for safe spaces on college campuses has been hijacked and transformed from an earnest effort to protect victims of abuse into a closed-minded crusade to shut out all ideological dissent.
We are proud that our campus is exceptionally welcoming and accepting of people of diverse backgrounds, rendering safe spaces from hatred superfluous. Furthermore we are disturbed that nevertheless some members of our community would attempt to abuse this idea to insulate themselves from contrary thought.
If someone does not want to hear opposing points of view and they want to be kept safe from ideas that they may disagree with there are better places to be than on a college campus. The danger of this is that universities will no longer be places where ideas can be freely exchanged and challenged. It is imperative that we do not support the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can escape from ideas and perspectives that differ from their own.
On a larger scale, this is dangerous for America because UM is not a daycare and neither is the real world; there are no safe spaces in the real world. People should be more open-minded to ideas that are not their own. Scrubbing our campus clean of differing view points is the antithesis of what a university should be.
The unfounded assertion that there are no College Republicans who are gay, Jewish, black, victims of sexual assault, etc. is evidence of the distorted and dangerous worldview which arises when students willfully insulate themselves from ideological diversity. Such obvious misconceptions would long ago have fallen apart had these individuals had the courage to let their views be challenged.”

Read More: Supporting the nontraditional candidate on campus

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Amanda Herrera contributed to reporting. 

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15 Comments

  1. @REAL CANE
    You’re calling out Nathaniel without using your own name. Such a tough guy REAL CANE. Go grow a backbone.

  2. Antonio Mercurius on

    The reason why University of Miami College Republicans will not stand for “intellectual safe spaces” on college campuses is because our white supremacist, heteronormative, racist, xenophobic, patriarchal society (which conservatives typically are invested in, something you can research and look into) has created the safest space they will ever experience. Note: This is the same student organization that wanted to bring a self-proclaimed troll to campus who has the goal of inciting hate and bigotry among people. Now they’re trying to say they promote diversity and inclusion. Please. Stop.
    Just like Jeremy Penn has said, they will never understand what it is like to be a minority. They won’t understand what it’s like to be treated lesser based on a socially constructed and institutionalized bias. They will never understand how it feels for someone to come up to you and threaten your life based on these biases (Something a good number of my friends have experienced).
    I love how they mention they have black people, gay people, and people of different religions but don’t mention how their beliefs affect those groups. P.S. tokenism is one hell of an addiction.
    The UM Republicans say they want intellectual discussion and the exchange of ideas but when students protest about injustice, they take offense to it. The UM Republicans are honestly what Robin DiAngelo would define as “racial arrogance” and “white fragility.” Now let me define those terms for you. Racial Arrogance is the idea that if something doesn’t affect you, you don’t care about it. To put into context, the UM Republicans do not need safe spaces because white supremacy of the Republican party will provide that emotional comfort. Question: How many UM Republicans have signed up for the AAS 290: #BlackLivesMatter course? You know in order to learn about another opinion that is backed up by scholarly research (it will be offered next spring so I encourage them to take it). Now white fragility is the idea that a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves such as anger (something that is clearly shown by this group). Question: How many UM Republicans have meaningful conversations dealing with race, gender, sexuality, or class with people outside of their group and outside of the world of politics? I don’t mean having these conversations with anybody. I mean having these meaningful conversations that would honestly change most of their views if they were to absorb what was being said. I mean having these meaningful conversations with people that go hard for liberation and social equity.
    Now let me end this long message with a debunking of a quote: “UM is not a daycare and neither is the real world.” The fact that you are okay with your world that is filled with social inequity that dis-proportionally affects gender, class, race, sexual orientation, and religion shows me so much about the character and the principles of your organization. I am very glad that Jeremy spoke up about this.

  3. @Nathaniel Skinner — have you nothing better to do than continue to comment on TMH articles and live under the guise of being a ‘Cane? You act as though you are a part of the Cane family but never truly have been, despite your lies to the contrary. Before you judge one of ours – regardless of how right or wrong they may be – get your own stories straight. We are family first, you are just a fan.

  4. I’m not shocked that a so called liberal would be unable to tolerate sensible dissent and intellectual discourse. The sign is dead on, and I salute the College Republicans for having the courage to stand up for free speech. The University of Miami is an INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING, learning is about the free exchange of ideas. The whole point of academia is to examine thoughts and ideas. In order for examination to take place, there has to be a marketplace in which everything is available for discussion. It’s easy to listen to what you want to hear, but you can’t grow unless your beliefs are challenged. Growth comes from hearing different viewpoints and then defending yours in the face of them, using well reasoned, informed arguments.

    As a person of color, I find it offensive that the people that are allegedly protecting me think that I’m too sensitive to deal with people who hold differing viewpoints. Dr. King would frown at the concept of censoring any kind of speech because it infers that people are too ignorant to form their own opinions. I’m not a lemming, and I can defend my viewpoints and philosophies very well, even under intense scrutiny. It’s beyond shameful that a political movement that once fought for the freedom to express ones self in any way possible is now reduced to censoring viewpoints they don’t like. Jeremy, you have brought dishonor to an organization that was once about open communication and freedom. SpectrUM is an organization that once fought for the rights of the LGBT community on campus, so our fellow ‘Canes could express themselves as members of the campus community. The freedom to be oneself, that’s something that can’t coexist with a safe space.

  5. This is seriously becoming ridiculous. In elementary school, we never made such a big deal about “safe places”. However, now as adults in college, we all of a sudden need safe spaces.

    P.S. I am considered a “minority” by the left, but I consider myself an AMERICAN first.

  6. “There are no safe spaces in the real world”??? A statement that could only be made my someone who doesn’t realize that their privilege is their safe space! Nothing like walking around in your safe space while belittling others because they want the same right/comfort. Dissenting ideologies??? Really?? What is ideologically sound or even interesting about starting with the lowest common denominator of name calling?

  7. The College Republican posted a sign that echoes recent intolerant rhetoric and misappropriated the concept of safe space. This not a simple issue of free speech, and they know that. This is rhetoric that attacks the advances made on college campuses and across the US to be more compassionate, considerate, and inclusive. Infantalizing safe spaces by saying they are for children is dismissive of their real importance to populations on campus that have been long silenced and ignored. No one is taking away anyone’s rights to free speech when they ask to have a space, just one space somewhere, where they know they will be heard and respected. Could this insensitivity be a not so covert reaction to the new LGBTQ Center?

  8. UM Journalism Student Alumni on

    What the headline for this article SHOULD be: “SprectrUM Treasurer Compares UM Republicans to Nazis”
    Come on Miami Hurricane – let’s actually do some REAL journalism…and find what’s actually newsworthy about this story.

  9. I have gone to a few College Republican meetings and I can say that there have been Jewish people, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, women, and members of the LGBTQ community present. All of these groups being PLURAL. It is just a group of people that share conservative values. The sign does not state that Safe Spaces shouldn’t exist. It says they are for children. We protect children from other views and keep them together by age so they don’t hear anything they shouldn’t. Safe spaces have similar attributes. As an independent voter that usually votes liberally, even I don’t see a problem with the sign. You all are saying Conservatives are inconsiderate and uninformed, they are saying safe spaces are for children. We are all entitled to our own opinions and should not get butt hurt over someone else’s views, as this is an inclusive college campus. Christopher’s statement is spot on and does not need to be viewed as inconsiderate.

  10. There is a HUGE difference between wanting open conversations and discussions, and wanting the conservative voice to be heard (which I agree there is a vital importance to) and mocking a group of human beings who are fighting for something. Yes there are marginalized members in college Republicans, no it is not only exclusively, white, American males, but that does not change the fact that the message and identity the organization is choosing to identify with in that sign is one of intolerance and ridicule, and is also not open to “free flow of ideas.” Ironically, the very thing that is being argued is that the conservative voice doesn’t have a “safe space” with which to voice their opinions. And if the argument was always “well this isn’t the real world” then the real world would never change and a lot of the progress we have made as a society would have never taken place. I challenge Christopher Dalton, as the head of the organization, to breach the subject of tolerance, freedom of speech, and flow of ideas in a constructive and PRODUCTIVE way if it is truly something he and his organization cares about, as opposed to the seemingly childish and inconsiderate way he has chosen to engage. I wonder what exchange would come of THAT.

  11. I have several marginalized identities (Black, woman, LGBTQ, child of immigrants, first generation, low SES). While I wholeheartedly agree with the need for safe spaces on college campuses, I also agree with the response from the College Republicans’ President, Chris Dalton. The original poster is insensitive and ironically, quite childish; however: 1) The First Amendment protects this kind of free speech. It is in a public space and no one was threatened with physical violence; 2) The poster fostered more free speech to counter it (i.e., Jeremy Penn’s response after seeing the poster); 3) People are now engaged in the conversation and will learn about the lived experiences of their peers, assuming they are open to it; 4) College is not like the real world and we will not have safe spaces, so we should use our time together now to engage with individuals with viewpoints, lived experiences, and ideologies that are different from our own. Who knows? Maybe reaching out to the College Republicans can turn into a learning moment where they better understand why some students advocate for safe spaces. Maybe the conversation will lead to more compassion for others once we are out in the real world; and 5) Being a Republican and having a marginalized identity are not mutually exclusive. I personally don’t understand it, but I am aware of this intersectionality.

  12. One side of the argument is focused on what you look like and who you are sexually attracted to. The other side cares about how you think. As students at an esteemed college, I think the mature decision is to side with the latter while also being respectful and inclusive towards all. I think the UMCR sign is a declaration of the freedom of thought in response to the University’s newfound obsession with victimization.

  13. I agree with Christopher’s explanation and defense of the “Safe Spaces are for Children” sign. Jeremy Penn’s Facebook post was juvenile, hurtful and incoherent at points. The University of Miami College Republicans is a welcoming group that regularly phone-banks with the Republican-Jewish coalition. For any member of higher education to take a stance against the diversity of thought, the most importance diversity that exists on a college campus, is counterintuitive.

  14. I’m Jewish and in the college republicans here at UM with a number of other Jewish kids and a number of minorities. I have never felt uncomfortable being a college republican and the idea of “safe spaces” has been manipulated by millennials to avoid interacting with individuals of different opinions, ideologies, and perspectives. If you want comments that aren’t from students that have never experienced the great club that is UMCR’s, come to our meetings Monday at 8pm.