Northern Arizona President Under Fire For Refusing To Commit To “Safe Spaces”

DrRitaCheng15_004MedNorthern_Arizona_University_logo.svgI previously wrote a column on the need for academics to rally around the University of Chicago, which has taken a courageous stand in support of free speech by rejecting speech codes and “safe spaces.”  Some schools have followed UChicago’s lead.  The latest is Northern Arizona University where President Rita Cheng decided to stand firm on the free speech foundations for our academic institutions. The result has been demands from students and faculty that she resign for her fealty to free speech and refusal to create “safe spaces”. It is another example of the rising intolerance and taste of speech regulation on our campuses.

Cheng has maintained that students need to accept that colleges are placed for open dialogue and exposure to a wide range of speech from the inspiring to the insulting.  She specifically refused to endorse the idea of “safe spaces”:

As a university professor, I’m not sure I have any support at all for safe space. I think that you as a student have to develop the skills to be successful in this world and that we need to provide you with the opportunity for discourse and debate and dialogue and academic inquiry, and I’m not sure that that is correlated with the notion of safe space as I’ve seen that.

Leading this charge is the university’s Student Action Coalition which insisted that Cheng could only support free speech by curtailing it:

How can you promote safe spaces if you don’t take action in situations of injustice such as last week when we had the preacher on campus and he was promoting hate speech against marginalized students? As well as, not speaking out against racist incidents like blackface two months ago by student workers followed by no reform and no repercussions?

The meeting also included demands for sanctuary protection of undocumented persons and a significant increase in wages for workers.

The students marched out of the meeting with Cheng irate over her refusal to curtail free speech or create spaces that protect students by barring spaces in certain areas.  What is astonishing is that students now rally around the concept of limiting speech as a noble cause and treat unregulated speech as the danger itself.  Most concerning is the doublespeak of students and faculty that true free speech means less speech.

The position of the students has been fueled by faculty teaching that free speech must be curtailed as a threat to diversity and equality.  It is a position that is not shared by most faculty that I have spoken with at universities, where there is rising alarm over the anti-speech values being taught to students. However, faculty are often intimidated by the threat of being called insensitive or guilty of “microaggressions”, an ill-defined catchall term being used around the country to justify speech regulation.  Worse yet, some of these protests raises concerns that there is a form of mob rule as opposed to faculty control on our academic institutions.

Faculty and alumni at Northern Arizona now have to make a choice.  They can take their school into this growing academic abyss of speech controls or they can rally around their president.  If Cheng is removed, it is a victory that will come at a hefty price for this institution.

59 thoughts on “Northern Arizona President Under Fire For Refusing To Commit To “Safe Spaces”

  1. I hope we hear what develops in this case. The MSM usually drops these sort of stories if they conclude with shining a bad light on their agenda.

  2. Bring the stupid to college and turbulently mix them in and the stupid will stay that way and downgrade the not-so-stupid in ever increasing numbers. It’s simple fluid dynamics – works with people, too.

  3. Well, when you’re down on your luck and you ain’t got a buck
    In London you’re a goner
    Even London Bridge has fallen down and moved to Arizona
    Now I know why

    And I’ll substantiate the rumor that the English sense of humor
    Is drier than than the Texas sand
    You can put up your Dukes, and you can bet your boots
    But I’m leavin’ just as fast as I can

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    Well, it’s cold over here, and I swear
    I wish they’d turn the heat on
    And where in the world is that English girl
    I promised I would meet on the third floor

    And of the whole damn lot, the only friend I’ve got
    Is a smoke and a cheap guitar
    My mind keeps roamin’, my heart keeps longin’
    To be home in a Texas bar

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    Well, I decided that I’d get my cowboy hat
    And go down to Marble Arch Station
    ‘Cause when a Texan fancies, he’ll take his chances
    Chances will be taken, that’s for sure

    And them Limey eyes, they were eyein’ the prize
    Some people call manly footwear
    And they said you’re from down South and when you open your mouth
    You always seem to put your foot there

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and AbiLene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

    I wanna go home with the armadillo
    Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene
    The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen

  4. Most large cities and all states have “safe places”. They usually have the words “mental facility” within the name. They are relatively safe. I worked at one and thought the inmates felt safe. Many had left schools in their mental illness depths of depression and whatnot. The doctors advised many of them not to go back to school. The doctors sometimes called the schools “asylums”. The best is when the inmates take over the asylums. Right? Like these safe place schools?

  5. These students do not know any better. They lack real world experience, and they still believe they are the center of the solar system. They are fresh from the creche where Little Johnny must not be upset and Mommy helps him with all his homework and selects his classes for him. The world has been a safe space for them.

    The university is supposed to shake up that world view, and make an intellectual man and woman out of them. They are supposed to be shocked, challenged, and if they voice an opinion, they had damned well better be able to back it up with a cogent argument.

    It is not the students’ fault. It is the university, staffed with faculty of the 60’s, the Far Left that has dominated our higher education system for decades. You know, that university system that blissfully hires murderers, cop killers, anarchists, and domestic terrorists to go explain to students how their values system is completely wrong. What did we expect? The promotion of critical reasoning, free speech, and tolerance from employees who have a well documented history of bullying, and sometimes even violence, in order to get their way?

    And it is the parents’ fault for not paying attention. As universities became more intolerant, more despotic, more like Venezuela or some Third World Socialist Dictatorship, parents should have voted with their wallets. Nothing enacts change like the threat of going out of business. But they didn’t, and so this festers and thrives in the damp environment of jaded acceptance and the State Media.

    • Karen – I blame it on attracting out-of-state students because of the skiing, locale, etc. And they have been inculcated by their high school teachers. Depending on your major ASU or UA are your first and second choices. NAU is always third.

      • I blame it on kids not getting their butts spanked when they were little. Instead, some Harvard Professor-type opined that an explanation, or a brief time out, or some sort of extortion where Mommy takes away a toy for a while was an acceptable substitute for a sore bottom.

        Sooo now, these same little kids think they just do whatever and no pain will attach to their actions.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

    • It is not the students’ fault. It is the university, staffed with faculty of the 60’s, the Far Left that has dominated our higher education system for decades.

      The median age of college faculty (as assessed at the University of Wisconsin) is 51.1 years, I.e. the faculty member of median age was all of 4 years old when the draft lottery was implemented. The median retirement age is now about 67, which is to say that anyone who received an old-style S-2 deferment is an elderly straggler.

      • Lessee, the old Students for a Democratic Society imploded in 1969. The youngest SDS members are those shuffling out to grass next year.

  6. Lemmings

    If these students applied some critical thinking skills they just might experience an awakening of reason, realizing they were simply being useful idiots to those wanting to ultimately control them, and everyone else for that matter.

      • Actually, no. University comes from Latin legal term meaning free of obligation to the local feudal lord.

        • If you remember your Latin studies you might recall that the noun “universitas” means “the whole” or “the entire (thing).” When used in the context of education, it is part of a Latin phrase meaning a community, or universe if you will, of teachers and students.

  7. Here is an excerpt from a longer article about the roots of the anti-free speech movements:

    Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida are just three of the “founding fathers” of postmodernism but their ideas share common themes with other influential “theorists” and were taken up by later postmodernists who applied them to an increasingly diverse range of disciplines within the social sciences and humanities. We’ve seen that this includes an intense sensitivity to language on the level of the word and a feeling that what the speaker means is less important than how it is received, no matter how radical the interpretation. Shared humanity and individuality are essentially illusions and people are propagators or victims of discourses depending on their social position; a position which is dependent on identity far more than their individual engagement with society. Morality is culturally relative, as is reality itself. Empirical evidence is suspect and so are any culturally dominant ideas including science, reason, and universal liberalism. These are Enlightenment values which are naïve, totalizing and oppressive, and there is a moral necessity to smash them. Far more important is the lived experience, narratives and beliefs of “marginalized” groups all of which are equally “true” but must now be privileged over Enlightenment values to reverse an oppressive, unjust and entirely arbitrary social construction of reality, morality and knowledge.

    The desire to “smash” the status quo, challenge widely held values and institutions and champion the marginalized is absolutely liberal in ethos. Opposing it is resolutely conservative. This is the historical reality, but we are at a unique point in history where the status quo is fairly consistently liberal, with a liberalism that upholds the values of freedom, equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of gender, race and sexuality. The result is confusion in which life-long liberals wishing to conserve this kind of liberal status quo find themselves considered conservative and those wishing to avoid conservatism at all costs find themselves defending irrationalism and illiberalism. Whilst the first postmodernists mostly challenged discourse with discourse, the activists motivated by their ideas are becoming more authoritarian and following those ideas to their logical conclusion. Freedom of speech is under threat because speech is now dangerous. So dangerous that people considering themselves liberal can now justify responding to it with violence. The need to argue a case persuasively using reasoned argument is now often replaced with references to identity and pure rage.

    Despite all the evidence that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia are at an all-time low in Western societies, Leftist academics and SocJus activists display a fatalistic pessimism, enabled by postmodern interpretative “reading” practices which valorize confirmation bias. The authoritarian power of the postmodern academics and activists seems to be invisible to them whilst being apparent to everyone else. As Andrew Sullivan says of intersectionality:

    “It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. … Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse.” [7]

    It’s a good article. I do think the author omitted the idea that much of this is simply money and power related, not a matter of philosophy. Some people try to limit free speech simply to increase their political power, and could care less about Foucault.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. Free speech is key to the learning experience. Hearing things with which one dies not agree is part of that learning experience. Kudos to educators who refuse to by into the idea that disagreement is the same as a physical attack.

  9. What would ameliorate this situation is an explicit endorsement from the trustees and an open letter from the trustees to the faculty telling them that anyone dissatisfied with institutional policy re these matters is welcome to resign and don’t let the door hit your tuchus on the way out. (Of course, trustees rarely do anything constructive, so it won’t happen).

    • DDS,

      That is a good idea. I agree it probably would never happen but it sure would be great if it did!

  10. I believe this desire for “safe space” has resulted from the oligarchy’s many attempts to separate people and set us against each other. I have been watching the increasing irrelevance or worse, the propagandistic nature of the liberal arts with alarm. There are many factors involved here.

    First, especially since 9/11 but also before, the govt. has promoted all fear, all the time. The fears being promoted are not realistic. They are deliberately off-target from the real threats people face.

    So for example, a real threat is lack of clean air, drinking water, good soil which results in people getting sick and dying. There is also extraordinary economic injustice, also resulting in early deaths, malnourished and starving children, lack of access to healthcare, good education, too few jobs for people to find work and so on. Lack of public sanitation, poor infrastructure and substandard housing (if even that) are all creating very unsafe space for a large majority of Americans. This nation has mass incarceration based on race, but not exclusively so–there is also class to consider. If “we the people,”got together, these would likely be the problems we would address. That is not acceptable to the oligarchy for whom all money and resources (such as people’s intellectual gifts) must be diverted into war, theft of public money into the private hands of a few and mass surveillance to control the people who are burdened by the mess the oligarchy has created.

    It is essential to have a dumbed down and misdirected population under this system of oligarchy. People who can work together, who can think through an argument and even change their minds are simply not that easy to manipulate. People who understand a real threat and will face it courageously, even if they are very scared, do not make good servants.

    If you believe this has not been systematically organized by the oligarchy against our citizens, I urge you to check sites such as muckrock, wikileaks, etc.–wherever you can see the original documents. You will see for yourself that these plans were thought out and put in motion by the deep state. Mission nearly accomplished!

    We desperately need administrators to hold the line against people never hearing an idea they disagree with or working together for the greater good, even with people who are, gasp, DIFFERENT from them! Otherwise we will remain a largely dumbed down, compliant citizenry.

    • Yes, this:

      ”We desperately need administrators to hold the line against people never hearing an idea they disagree with or working together for the greater good, even with people who are, gasp, DIFFERENT from them! Otherwise we will remain a largely dumbed down, compliant citizenry.”

    • Jill:
      I agree with your critical nature of your concerns, but not that there’s an omnipotent “oligarchy” pulling the levers of society and culture from behind the curtain. Such an organization would require a level of conglomeration, coordination, confidentiality, and competence which just isn’t possible for any extended period of time among humans. Plus, the abiding rule regarding conspiracies is “if two people know about it, it isn’t a secret.” I will tangentially agree with you that there is an inherent incompatibility of desires between the haves and the have-nots which has existed in the human condition from the beginning of recorded history.

      • Mark M.

        The Manhattan project!

        This is a right wing website but you can verify the information from other sites. See what you think. It’s pretty interesting info:

        “Secrecy has become a way of life, particularly for the stealthy operations of nuclear powers and a continuity of government system.
        In preparing for all eventualities of defense, and attempting to stay one step ahead of every adversary, the U.S. government and governments around the world have become so secret, that entire cities and underground civilizations have been created without the knowledge of the public.
        And some people still claim far-reaching conspiracies are impossible because they’d never be able to get so many people to keep their mouths shut.”

        I hope you will look at muckrock and wikilekas for original documents. The plans are laid out in these documents and we see them being enacted all around us. I hope I can convince you to research things and read the documents yourself.

        • I am very familiar with the success of the amazing Manhattan Project; one of the greatest accomplishments of the United States, which likely saved the world. However, that was a relatively short-lived secret. Your thesis requires a level of extreme confidentiality extending over decades. Your link returns to a source which makes outlandish claims; none of which have been reported in any reputable media sources whatsoever. If you are claiming that such a situation merely confirms the conspiracy, then we will have to agree to disagree–everybody is a journalist nowadays, it’s impossible to buy them all of. As for myself, I have direct experience in the trials of person accused of participating in conspiracies of one sort or another; if it’s lucrative enough, somebody always talks. It’s the nature of any human construct.

  11. As I travel this great country I like to visit college towns and walk through campuses. Northern Arizona is in Flagstaff, and very quaint city. I couldn’t walk much as they just had almost 3 feet of snow. I hope this brave woman survives.

  12. Colleges should make sure that if students experience distress/challenges for any reason which are significantly interfering with their lives, they should go to student health in order to be evaluated and referred for treatment, if needed. THIS approach is their safe space.

  13. The only ‘safe’ spaces should be spaces dedicated to learning where noise of any sort is not allowed. A university has two primary objectives: the accumulation of knowledge and experience and the dissemination and exchange of knowledge and experience. One can demand silence and the other be in direct conflict with that need. Libraries and other designated places should be spaces protected against the imposition of perspectives that impose upon those wishing only to concentrate on their studies. There must, however, always be areas where discussion can take place and as well be protected. Most universities have this and have always had this. There should be no restricting of these areas for free exchange. On the other hand, if students are harassed by others and can find no place to go to be away from youthful noisy exuberance, then perhaps ‘safe’ or quiet spaces need to be designated.

    Just as with religion where the freedom of religion is wholly dependent on the freedom from religion, the freedom of free speech is wholly dependent on the freedom from free speech.

    I find these posts by Turley to lack sufficient detail for a full understanding of the problems, if any.

    • Why did you comment if you found the article lacking sufficient information? If you need more information, educate yourself. As for the conditions that you described, if students are harassed, they can seek help from police. Even youthful exuberance is protected, unless it become disorderly, and once again police will be involved.If students need a quiet and safe place, they can always go to a church, temple, or mosque. Even if they are not followers of a faith, they may still seek sanctuary in such places. Suppressing a right to help others “feel safe” is subjective, slippery slope.

    • You clearly don’t understand those rights. None of us gets to uniquely interpret the law to suit our own personal comfort levels, and it is imperative that we continue that way. You are free to ignore religion or speech, you are not free to silence others because you disagree. Did you go to one of these colleges? How old are you? Your advocacy of legal censorship is just shy of being advocacy for legal thought control, and that is the direct antithesis of what you claim you are concerned about in the first place. Your logic is swiss cheese (i.e. full of holes, in case you are too young to get the reference).

      • Mike and James

        So what I’m saying is that students should have the right to speak freely and be able to study quietly, not one or the other but both freedoms. And, somehow you don’t get that freedom set. I studied in a Canadian university, a French university, and an American university, between 1969 and 1991. I was never forced to listen but could always choose to listen. Your positions are as equally extreme as the ones you target. Students should not be left with the only option of going to the police. What a stupid statement. That students have to go to a church, temple, or mosque and not be able to find a quiet place at a university is beyond belief. The pendulum seems to swing both ways with some.

    • The world is full of places “free of free speech.” Your car for instance. But college campuses should not be one of them. One of the missions of college is to expose students to new ideas, sometimes ideas the student, snowflake or not, might find objectionable, even repugnant.

      Safe spaces are in abundant supply. This is a false issue.

      • Rex

        Again with the determination of the purpose of a university, as seen from one perspective. The objective of education is to allow multiple purposes to surface and be explored. Your designing of the quiet moments for those who pay equally and deserve as much as those more exuberant and extroverted is nothing more than fascist. The purpose of places of learning from the get go on up to universities is learning. The two primary vehicles of learning should be equally embraced, not just yours. It never ceases to amaze me how guilty of the same sins are the accusers in this bipolar nation. It is not supposed to be either or, but both. Take a long look at your proposal to shove ideas ‘objectionable, even repugnant’, down people’s throats.

        • Dear Isaac,
          Stfu you whiny pansy. Go cry in a corner and read the Huff Po. I’m so tired of people like you.

  14. I hope she stands firm and the faculty and alumni support her. I don’t understand how students have the audacity to enroll in a college and then expect the institution to change to meet their whims. If some students at NAU can’t handle free speech, they are free to transfer to a different college.

    • TIN – but, but, but … they are like 10 minutes from the ski lift. Where else are you going find a college like that. Plus, it is slightly less expensive (or was) than ASU and UA.

    • That’s just how these kids have been raised. They regard everything in life through this lens, sadly the next generation are even more crippled and more ‘snowflake’ than the previous ones given that moniker. It’s starting to become alarming – if not the behavior itself, the fact that institutions and individuals are happy to kow-tow to it. What will we do when these kids are old enough to start holding public offices? I sincerely hope she holds her ground, I don’t think the fascist label is at all inappropriate for this cohort and their mentors.

  15. It is clear the snow has melted in Flagstaff and the students at NAU have too much time on their hands again.

  16. Bravo! The other thread about people dying at competitions; this is a competition as well. Turn this whole free speech thing around and teach the kids the rewards for the concept of “more” speech. It’s a risk worth taking.

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