Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Safe Space

All across campus this image is posted on office doors with the words "safe space" underneath it. I take pride in attending a university that is so open and accepting of all students no matter what their personal choices are. However, as a student that has been affected so severely by the war in Iraq I have to ask, "Where is my safe space?"

One of the truly beautiful values our country holds is the freedom of speech. The freedom to form our own thoughts and opinions about the world around us and to express those views out loud. However, there is a time and a place for standing tall on your own personal soap box and making your thoughts known to the world.

It is my firm belief that it is an educators job to guide young students in the direction of becoming analytically capable adults. An adult that is able to view the world around them and make decisions based on facts, life experience, and ethical judgement. Before going into the world of teaching it is important for one to ask themselves, "What do I want my students to take away from my class?" College is a confusing time when many students are just beginning to learn who they really are. Democrat, Republican, straight, gay, religious, or atheist. There are so many different paths to choose from and the role models we have in life often shape our future choices.

I believe there is a way in which politics should be addressed in the class room. I am all in favor of political discussions with my fellow peers. However, as a teacher your job is not to present your own personal ideas to the class but to become a moderator. Create class room discussion and watch as your students debate ideas and form opinions. Allow them to express their own thoughts and opinions rather than the ideas of others. By teaching them to dream, you teach them to be independent.

Upon walking into offices hours with my professor, I am hit with the following images that are smeared on his door.

Unfortunately, not all educators are able to be objective and many feel it is their right to teach from only their point of view. But how do I enter this office and tell this professor what is going on in my life with confidence that he will be accepting? I cannot know what to expect of his reaction when I tell him that my husband had his arm blown off in Iraq. Will he be understanding? Or will he look at me in disgust and begin to tell me why we should not be fighting this war?

This is not a safe space for me. I will not ever be able to sit down in this office and discuss my life with you. I will not give you a story that will add fuel to your fire. You will not use me in defense of your stand on the war. My husband is a survivor, I am a survivor, and we are proud of what we have given to this country. I'm not asking for anyone to change their views on the war. I'm asking for compassion. I'm asking for understanding. And I'm asking for support.


Biermann said...

When I returned home from the Gulf War in the spring of 1991 my sister and her husband wanted to take me and my wife out to a movie and then hit some bars around Menomonie to welcome me home. As we entered town on 29 from Elmwood there were some protesters burning the flag just as we started to pass Stout. Because traffic was at a complete stop and I was easy to spot as a military person, I was immediately singled out as a baby killer and a murderer. With in seconds, a mob of students started rocking my sister’s car and were yelling at me. Fortunately there were s few campus and city police officers close by and offered their assistance. They got us through Stout and thanked me for my service. We ended up going on to Elk Mound where the reception was much warmer. Every time I return home to visit my family and drive by Stout I remember that night like it was yesterday. I’ve always wondered if things were better there now, I guess not.

Tracy said...

It's just not PC to give those effected by the war a "safe place". And that infuriates me.

I'm so sorry you have to deal with that.

Army Wife said...

When i noted you and JR would be attending a University...I cringed inside. I am not sure if I left the comment here, or at his place. I was terrified of this for you.

I too was married in 1990, one week after Desert Storm, and attended University while DH was stationed with the 82nd. It was frustrating for us.

Universities are notorious socialist institutions.

I too am open and try to remain so, but when my freedom of speech is impaired by an institution, that thinks so little of the men that fought for it. Well I found it offensive.

I might suggest here, that you locate a Christian University, or other learning institution, that would value your $.

I am sure your readers could help locate one....

Shari said...

I felt very sad reading your
Its hard to be in the minority,
but it can also help sharpen your
own ideas and values.
The professor's stickers also
are also making a point on a large
political scale, and its not clear
to me that he would necessarily
be hostile to you and J.R.'s
choices and opinions.
Again, a wonderful and thoughtful
entry. Its amazing to remember
how young you are. You are special...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately some professors do spew their political/world views and can discriminate against students who voice an alternate opinion. When helping a challenged student a few years ago, I audited classes with him at a UW college in southern Wisconsin, and students voicing conservative thoughts, any type of war/troop support, or values based on religious upbringing were not treated the same and I felt this student's grade on a particular essay reflected the professors dislike of his contrary opinion. I honestly felt as if I was in a system feeding the brains of these kids to become liberal Democrats. And I'm not talking negative on being a Democrat, but the pressure to comply with several professors lines of thinking was definitely present. This student finally gave up talking in class and just played the game. It is not easy to wade through the system and keep your cool! Good luck with the studies and don't let the b@%*!&#'s get ya!
Stay proud and strong, and thanks again to both of you for what you have given in serving this country.
Cathy B

Anonymous said...

I can't remember who said it, but the quote was "To those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know." I'd be tempted to feel sorry for your professor, if he wasn't such a jerk.

I wish I had something deeper to offer, but that's the best I can do. You do have my sympathies, and you have the support of the people who post here. Just know that you'll be free of this in a short time, and free to choose your own friends and mentors.

Take care.
Soldiers Angels,NYC

Kris, in New England said...

I'm with Army Wife - I wondered how you and J.R. would fare in a university environment after all that you've been thru. I'm so sorry that you've had to see that kind of bias already.

You talk about freedom of speech - don't let asshats like that professor stop you from talking to them about your experiences. Just as they have the freedom to plaster their offices with that kind of garbage, so too do you have the freedom to disagree with them, directly.

At the very least, they may use you but you can use them right back to work out some of your own aggression...

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that many of our state universities these days are filled with the socialist professors that are influencing the minds of tomorrow. Thankfully you know what you believe and are confident in that. It is also unfortunate that the state taxes you and I pay, help to pay their salaries. The silver lining I find in all of this is that the taxes I also pay go to the proud men and women who have fought to give us such freedoms, freedoms that such professors take advantage of everyday. Stand up for what you believe, don't be afraid to voice your opinion you have every right to do so. The people of Iraq would expect no less from you.

piper said...

You have MY support. I think there was a lot of coverage recently about college faculties being mostly liberal (there's a surprise!). I googled it to try find a referring link, but only found this Washington Post story from 2005.

So nothing new, and sadly does little in the way of providing answers! Do keep us posted on how it goes.

a Soldier's Angel from Chicago

Nomy said...

Hi. I just wanted to say that I agree with you on this post. All of it. I'm a gay woman, and I could not agree with you more.

I guess I just wanted to speak up on this. I likely don't have to tell you, but all gay people don't buy the crap your professors are selling.

I'm in the O&P field, also. I work with vets from all the wars. And I thank each and every one for their service.

Wishing you and JR the absolute best. Thank him for his service for me, okay?

Kasey said...

My brother is in college right now. He tells me how ashamed he is of my political thinkings. And while he is busy spewing his 'education' at me about politics, I can't help think about how brainwashed he sounds, like he is reciting what he has learned.

He has two brother in laws in the Army but NO ONE at college knows that. And it makes me very very sad.

I am sorry that you are going through this. I remember the war protesters when I was at college two years ago and our teachers were usually out in front, waving their signs, leading all the students.

Teresa said...

Sarah (trying to grok) had posted about your plight so I thought I'd add my 2 cents FWIW...

Having been to college a couple of times, once as a high school grad and again as a 30 year old mother with 2 kids at home, perhaps I can give you some advice...

Talk to your teachers ONLY about school work. In all my years at school - I NEVER talked to my teachers about my private life - ever. Be nice and polite and friendly, if possible (sometimes it's not). Be insistent on getting the education you are paying for - in other words, if you need help with an assignment, the teacher should be there and helpful during office hours.

But keep your home life your own and your opinions your own unless absolutely pressed to make a stand.

You have to understand... most logical people think as you do with regard to a college education - an open place of learning. The problem is - it hasn't been that way for a long time - if ever - it is really the "wished for educational utopia" much as liberals dream of a "world without war".

What you are really there to achieve is that piece of paper. That's the only thing you need out of the University system. That's the thing that will help you get jobs later. That is the goal to focus on.

If you find friends at school, you'll be blessed. If not, you still have the paper and you have your life ahead of you to make friends.

This may seem very cynical, but it's true. Colleges, professors, TA's, and students all take themselves very seriously. They all feel as if everything they do or say is "relevant" - when 99.9999% is utter garbage.

College passes very quickly. While it makes a lasting impression - it can only bring you down if you allow it. So... stick to your task of getting done, stay on topic, never bring your home life into the school environment, give the teachers what they want, and then get out and get on with your real life. People like the teacher you mention are simply not worth any angst at all - they are means to an end.

Hang in there. You can do it!

Green said...

That's why I like going to my military university. The student with his arm blown off is the local hero.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Go to Columbia University in NYC. They have a thriving and sizeable student-veterans community on campus.

Eric said...

Forgot to add:

See U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University:

... and, Columbia (GS) Dean's welcome letter to veterans:

Anonymous said...

Don't confuse dissent against the actions of the Government with non-support of the brave guys and gals who have been sent to an unjust war.... I supprt you, but I cannot supprt the actions of the Government