White House: Colleges Should Create ‘Safe Spaces’ and ‘Welcoming Climate’ For Student Protesters

Campus Protests California
AP Photo/Nick Ut

The Obama administration is delivering a list of guidelines for college administrators who must respond to allegations of racial mistreatment and “white privilege” on college campuses, after widely publicized incidents at Yale and the University of Missouri created by student protesters.

“We can do better in our responses to these incidents and creating more welcoming climates,” Obama’s Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan explains in an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

He warns administrators that “slow or tepid reaction can amount to tolerance of a racially hostile environment” and encourages college administrators to take student protests seriously.

“Students can serve as experts on their lived experiences, helping to make colleges and universities safe spaces,” he said.

The op-ed also suggests that college heads make their administrations more racially and culturally diverse to stop the flow of grievances.

“Diversity is critical to ensuring academic and social success,” Duncan writes. “Diversity fosters a climate of healthy interaction among people from different groups, contributing to varied experiences, and ensuring students feel welcomed.”

Duncan has been exploring the subject in the wake of student protesters causing havoc on campus, demanding administrators to step down or remove university symbols deemed offensive or racist.

“There is no place on our college campuses for racial hostility and prejudice that impact our students’ ability to learn,” he writes. “Our guidance to promote diversity on campuses emphasizes that students must be able to transcend any boundaries of race, language and culture to succeed in today’s global economy.”

The White House has praised the student protesters, comparing their work to that carried out by by the civil rights movement.

“I’d rather see them err on the side of activism than being passive,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News. “I want an activist student body just like I want an activist citizenry, and the issue is just making sure that even as these young people are getting engaged, getting involved, speaking out, that they’re also listening.”


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