By Finbarr Curtis
On a short trip a few summers ago, I decided to visit the University of Chicago. As I looked for directions on the university website, I found routes by bus and light rail but noticed that it said nothing about the elevated subway that stopped close by. As I was staying close to the Green Line, it seemed like a quick route was to ride to the final stop and walk a few blocks north. This worked fine and I was on campus within a few minutes after getting off the train.
It later occurred to me that it was possible that the reason for omitting the L from the website was that University of Chicago administrators presumed that the neighborhood south of campus would make prospective students and visitors feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Therefore, the two mass transit suggestions directed students east of campus to the Hyde Park neighborhood. In other words, the University of Chicago is a literal safe space within Chicago's South Side.
This institutional commitment to safety is ironic in light of a recent letter from the Dean of Students to the incoming class of 2020. In the letter, Dean John (Jay) Ellison asserts that the university does not support "safe spaces" and warns students that they need to get tough: "You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort." While the Dean's letter welcomes incoming students as they "continue on their intellectual journey," it does not recommend that this take them through the areas west and south of campus