The United Council for University of Wisconsin Students created a list of demands, one of which was: UW system schools need to provide “safe spaces” free from hate speech. In response, the University of Wisconsin system’s Board of Regents came up with the resolution that supported the principles of free speech.
In my personal opinion I believe that the request for “safe spaces” wasn’t a request that the Board of Regents had the authority to grant, but I do think that the board of regents can do more to satisfy the United Council.
There’s no argument that words can hurt, but freedom of speech is something that makes this country great. It allows for the oppressed to speak out, it gives people the chance to have difficult conversations in order to make social change, and it is how we learn from one another.
Limiting free speech is contrary to our first amendment and the longstanding UW System Board of Regents’ “Sifting and Winnowing” declaration that highlights the importance of academic freedom in order to find the truth, according to an article on Madison.com by Donald Downs, John Sharpless and Mary Anderson titled “University of Wisconsin Directive Devalues Free Speech on Campus.”
Another demand made by the United Council to the Board of Regents was that the Regents should “…create a task force to monitor the experiences of minority students in schools and to increase funding to bring mental health professionals — particularly those of color — into the schools,” according to the Ranger News’ Feb. 11 coverage.
These demands are more reasonable and something that the Regents have more control over versus the United Council’s demand for “safe spaces.”
As a student athlete I’ve taken a variety of surveys that monitor my student athlete experience, both from my school and from my respective conference. The demand of creating a task force to monitor the minority student experience seems like a reasonable demand.
The only way for my school and my conference to make improvements is to get suggestions from the athletes and should be no different among minority students and all students in general. Creating a task force would raise more awareness and potentially help to make the general student experience a better one.
Right now, not only are mental health issues on the rise for minority students, but for all college students in general. “Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6%), followed by depression (36.4%)…),” a 2013 brief titled “College Students’ Mental Health Is a Growing Concern,” by the American Psychological Association reported.
The demand for increased funding to bring in more mental health professionals would be worthwhile. As I said before words can hurt, and since the Board of Regents cannot provide “safe space” then, at the very least the Board of Regents should provide assistance for those who may suffer from mental health issues that may arise from hate speech.