big idea day 2016
october 8 & 9
Free Speech and Safe Spaces:
the work of belonging on campus
The Mountain School aspires to be a place where everyone belongs, where every student can say, This is my place; I am my full self here. In recent years, the School has made concerted efforts toward that aspiration. This fall’s group of 45 students includes 19 boys and 26 girls; 37 different schools, 18 of which are public schools; 16 states plus England; nine students of color; and 18 students on financial aid.
The program emphasizes honesty, respect and inclusiveness, motivating students to build a community in which they are engaged and to which they are integral. And yet, for a variety of reasons—socioeconomic status, race, religion, mental health, gender, sexuality—it is more challenging for some students to belong than it is for others. Some may feel they never quite fit in.
Creating a sense of belonging requires work. Part of that work is managing the delicate balance between encouraging free speech and creating safe spaces for everyone. Many schools and colleges across the United States, including the Mountain School, are trying to figure out how to protect their students within a culture that is intellectually open.
For Big Idea Day 2016, we invite graduates to discuss the work of belonging, and the challenges of balancing free speech and safe spaces. How much should language be restricted in order to protect people? How does free speech or the idea of safe spaces contribute, or not, to an environment that supports belonging and community? What does it mean for the Mountain School to be a safe space? Are the ideas of free speech and safe spaces mutually exclusive?