To combat the feeling of discomfort and stress some students are feeling after recent events, a list of “safe spaces” has been posted on the WKU Diversity and Community Studies Campus Safety page.
Safe spaces and services include the WKU Police Department, the Student Government Association offices, the Intercultural Student Engagement Center, the Center for Citizenship and Social Justice in Tate Page Hall, Potter College Academic Commons in the Fine Arts Center, Southwest Hall, the Women’s Studies Center, Safe Walk and the Title IX hotline.
The search for safe spaces was initiated by Kristina Arnold, associate professor of art, after students told her about feeling unsafe on campus. Arnold said her students were afraid and “in various levels of crisis.”
“The first job as a campus is to make everyone feel safe,” Arnold said.
It took Arnold and the other departments collaborating with her several days to arrange details like hours and location of each safe space. They tried to make sure there was an accessible area at all parts of campus, Arnold said.
Jane Olmsted, department head of diversity and community studies, said there is no defined criteria for a safe space.
“We understand it as a place where if someone feels threatened by some kind of act of discrimination, hate, bullying or disrespect, can come here to cool off, possibly talk to someone and problem solve,” Olmsted said.
While the spaces were created as an immediate response to post-election stress, they can also be used for academic stress.
“A safe space can be a place that everyone should be feel comfortable and is staffed with a willing ear,” Arnold said.
These places were created “in wake of graffiti and hateful notes,” Dean of Potter College Larry Snyder said. People have also had objects thrown at them, according to Olmsted.
“Feeling safe and not threatened is necessary to the fundamental pursuit of a real education,” Snyder said.
Snyder and other faculty members have shown support by wearing safety pins signifying to others they are a person to talk to if feeling targeted.
Olmsted hopes a clearing house will be created from the list. A clearing house is a public source of information that is easier to access than what is currently available.
The current list of safe spaces can be found at http://www.wku.edu/dcs/safety.php and is being updated as new resources come in.
“It’s just a tiny little step in the right direction,” Olmsted said
Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]