There is a brewing controversy at Fordham University where students were thrown out of a coffee shop called Rodrigue’s Coffee House simply because they were wearing pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” hats. The manager of the shop insisted that the hats violated its “safe space” policy as if being conservative is now a de facto threat to other students. We recently discussed an increase in such conflicts in coffee shops targeting conservatives and Trump supporters. In this case, the encounter was captured on tape (below) and raises serious questions about the function of some “safe spaces” and whether it is code for an area protected from conservative views or voices.
The coffee shop is a campus club run by volunteers. However, that does not give student license to abuse other students for their political beliefs or bar them from the premises. Nevertheless, the irate student tells them to remove the hats and, when they decline to do so, yells at them to leave. She insists that “I’m protecting our customers … you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to go. ” She also calls the students fascists and nazis for their support of Trump.
University “safe spaces” have been used as sanctuaries (with “comfort” or “therapy” tents) from conservative speakers. That has led to a criticism that they are a way of universities to marginalize conservative views and convey its disagreement with conservative speakers. This video would seem to confirm that view in this particular safe space. The manager or worker is clearly indicating that the safe space was meant to keep out such views.
Most safe spaces are committed to preventing forms of prejudice based on homophobia or gender discrimination. This cafe posts such rules but does not state that it is also safe from conservative viewpoints.
The website states:
We do things like coffee and music and movies and love. If you like or want any of those things, stop on by. We’re located between Alumni Court South and Queen’s Court. Also, we’re entirely student run. It’s pretty rad.
RODRIGUE’S STRIVES TO BE A SAFER SPACE ON FORDHAM’S CAMPUS. We welcome diversity and we encourage all those participating in the Rodrigue’s community to express themselves creatively and respectfully. As such, we urge everyone in the space to be aware of their own identity, and considerate of the personhood of their peers.
For these reasons, consider the following:
Do not make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences.
Be aware of the ways in which your words and actions impact others.
Be aware of the boundaries of others’ space, physical or otherwise, and respect their consent.
No racism – No sexism – No homophobia
However, it also adds the caveat:
Please understand that the above list is by no means exhaustive; these are only basic guidelines to help foster a safer space and a more inclusive community in Rodrigue’s. Ideas and actions that intend to violate any of the above are not welcome.
If you feel that someone has transgressed this policy, we want you to feel comfortable confronting them or approaching a member behind the counter, who is available as a resource to assist you. It is the responsibility of every Rodrigue’s member to ensure that this policy is enforced.
If political views are now part of this non-exhaustive list, the university needs to reexamine the conditions for such student groups to receive university support. The position of the cafe worker is antithetical to the principles of any institution of higher learning. Barring students for their political views in the name of tolerance or “safety” does not alter the fact that the shop is engaging in the intolerant censorship of speech.
That is hardly a testament to diversity in lattes or learning.