Tag Archives: inclusive

Safe Spaces: Where Free Press Dies

It is unbelievable how freedom of the press, a right our Founding Fathers so cherished, has eroded in a country that prides itself on its liberties. It is unbelievable how the right to cover an open event, which freedom of the press entails, cannot be practiced on college campuses.

Last week, while trying to cover an open event discussing the role of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (API) community in the Black Lives Matter movement, hosted by Pomona College’s Asian American Resource Center (AARC)—which considers itself a “safe space”—I uncovered the sad state of free press at Pomona College. I was hoping to objectively cover this event, to bring out the little-known viewpoints of the API community on the Black Lives Matter movement. This hope was greeted by resentment and hostility, and I left with one message: Freedom of the press does not belong, and is not welcome, in safe spaces.

The process of stifling free press begins right as a journalist walks through the doors into the safe space. While I was initially welcomed when I asked if I could record the event and take notes, further questioning revealed I was trying to cover the event for a student-run publication. Even then, the event facilitators extended their warm welcome, until it was brought to light that this student-run publication was The Claremont Independent, a conservative-leaning paper. No more warm welcome and no more recording allowed, but I was still permitted to take notes.

The death blow of free press in this “safe space” struck later, when I started to take notes on my laptop just as the event began. As I finished typing my second line of notes, I was informed that note-taking would only be permitted if it was approved by all participants of the event—if even one participant objected to my note-taking, I would not be allowed to take notes. Unsurprisingly, after a blindfold vote, at least one person voted against note-taking, and I was told to stop taking notes. I was told that taking notes made participants uncomfortable, and that I should respect the AARC as a “safe space.” In a subsequent meeting with the director of AARC, I was told the AARC functions primarily as a “safe space” where participants should feel comfortable, and that people’s fears and concerns of an Independent journalist taking notes should be respected in this safe space, adding that the AARC does not want its views advertised to an audience the Independent could reach.

Despite making it clear that speech at this event should make all participants comfortable, attacks on capitalism and “capitalist violence,” the “heteropatriarchal” society, and traits of the “model minority” (like working hard and obeying the law) were left unchecked, without the slightest consideration of whether I, with differing political views, would feel comfortable listening to endless assaults to values which I hold dear. Yet with free press dead, who dares challenge this hypocrisy?

In the college campus “safe space,” with no freedom of the press, there is no check on the lack of ideological diversity, no way for “safe spaces” to promote their messages through an objective third party, and no way for the public to know about and effectively help pressure and protest against the hypocritical “inclusiveness” of safe spaces.

Free press is the restraint that keeps “safe spaces” from becoming “hate spaces” that do not fear whether the stifling of differing views, the silencing of people from different parts of the political spectrum, and the venting and promotion of anger towards certain groups of people, will ever be exposed to and critiqued by the public, where there is no fear whether the public will pressure them to change. Because, without the restraint of free press on safe spaces, the public will simply never know.

Unless safe spaces are made accessible to the free press, journalists need to abide by a new rule concerning reporting in safe spaces: Don’t try. Yet I remain confident, and hopeful, that through the efforts of those who act to uphold our Founding Fathers’ values on college campuses, the rule for journalists will be “Dare to try. Dare to uphold and defend the diversity of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.”

Student Leaders: Diversity Proposal Remedies “Unsafe Academic Environments”

Under pressure from student leaders, the Pomona College faculty voted last week to include a consideration of a professor’s “attent[ion] to diversity in the student body” in the College’s criteria for promotion and tenure.

The move follows the circulation of an open letter in support of the addition which received hundreds of signatures and the backing of several high-level officials in the College’s student government, including the current and former Student Body Presidents. According to the letter, the new language will ensure that faculty members must demonstrate a sufficient commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in order to be a successful candidate for tenure, promotion, or reappointment.

The letter also praised the motion as a significant step toward the realization of Pomona College’s diversity objectives as laid out in a document released last year by the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity. According to the letter, the new criterion will help to alleviate the “unsafe academic environments” which have had a deleterious effect upon “students’ well-being and everyday lived experiences” by making diversity one of the top considerations for faculty advancement, thereby recognizing that “meeting the needs of a diverse student body” is “an essential component of exceptional teaching and service.”

Under the former guidelines for promotion and tenure, faculty members were required to demonstrate “intellectual leadership” (i.e. “good teaching”); “professional achievement” (i.e. scholarly productivity); and “effective service to the College,” its student organizations, or to professional organizations. The new guidelines qualify “good teaching” as teaching which “is attentive to diversity in the student body” and adds a requirement that faculty members seeking promotion should demonstrate competency or excellence at “fostering an inclusive classroom” in addition to the superior teaching skills which the College’s promotion criteria already mandate.

Potential candidates for advancement also must “specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom.” These efforts might involve, as the new guidelines suggest, the “inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups” in the courses taught by the candidate or “any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity.”

Student reaction to the change has been generally positive. The open letter in support of the new language has garnered hundreds of signatures from Pomona College students. “I support this criteria,” said one supporter, who asked to remain anonymous. “I appreciate the lengths to which the campus faculty and student body went in order to get input and consensus from so many people before implementing this criteria.”

Others, however, are less pleased with the new policy. “Professors should be hired and later given tenure because of their teaching abilities,” another Pomona student told the Independent. “When it comes to promotion, identity politics should be left at the door.”