Letter to the Editor

Kinjal Dave

Dear editors,

Every student at Villanova has been in a safe space before. Think back to your orientation’s diversity performance. After encountering performances based on true stories at Villanova, after hearing plants in the audience represent real ideas that people have expressed on campus, you entered a facilitation where you agreed to safe space rules. 

This article will not entertain caricatures of what safe spaces are. Media coverage following student protests such as Yale have promoted this notion that safe spaces “coddle liberal arts students” in a way that threatens intellectual freedom. This article will speak to what I do as a member of the Association for Change and Transformation (ACT), as a scholar within the Center for Multicultural Affairs, as someone who explicitly sets up safe spaces for dialogue related to the Intergroup Relations (IGR) model. 

I am just one facilitator, and facilitators have different methods with constantly evolving understandings of what it means to set up a safe space. As a member of the ACT for two and a half years, I have facilitated safe space groups following diversity performances and Real Talks, facilitating well over 400 students in various safe space contexts. I’ve written three scenes for two separate Diversity Performances. The Diversity Performance has been running for at least 15 years. This year, ACT is producing a Diversity Performance 2.0 in the Spring Semester. The day we run out of material for the performance is the day I believe we are close to considering social inequality at various levels of society as anything but an epidemic. 

We have made progress, but we have a long way to go.  People do have differing beliefs, and it is important to be able to get along with people of differing beliefs. It is important to engage with differences in meaningful ways to further dialogue. In fact, safe spaces, especially at Villanova, are specifically designed to facilitate this. But one must make the distinction between embracing differences in opinion and making a commitment to push back against opinions that harm others and opinions that support harmful social, political and economic structures.


Kinjal Dave