Student Voices: Safe spaces | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Safe spaces | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Safe spaces

Aboriginal student Corinne Riedel questions how safe our “safe spaces” really are

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present a glimpse into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.

tipi vandalism

Our campus tipi has been vandalized more than once. Tipis are sacred. This still infuriates me. EPS (Edmonton Police Services) did not deem the 2013 vandalism on the tipi as being that of a hate crime, and comments by ignorami on social media were quick to tell our Aboriginal community that they are, indeed, “kind of offended that native people assume all white people are out to get them and put up monuments, to that end, at schools too.” And that we should “Relax. I bet the people who papered it didn’t think about racism or prejudice — I bet they just thought it would be a funny and harmless gag.” Wow!

How is safety even possible when sacred spaces are desecrated?

Just a few weeks ago, someone or some group entered the Aboriginal Student Council building and doused the inside walls and furniture with barbecue sauce and mustard. Imagine this! Then we are told that we are overreacting and that “natives are gangs who graffiti the city.” Are you f*#@ing kidding me?

We know that campus is not void of racism, sexism and more. We know that there are of people of colour or gender, or both, who don’t feel safe in some or all campus spaces. How is safety even possible when sacred spaces are desecrated?

I am thinking of the importance of safe spaces because a chunk of my study happens among diverse groups. I think of safe spaces on campus; I think of safe spaces for people of colour, for women and for our transgendered friends, to name a few.

But how do we put these ideas into action? This can be difficult as we are all kept busy “progressing” through individualist study practices. We… are… busy.

Does a “safe space” become an isolated safe space or an isolated targeted space?

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A close friend of mine works at Rutherford Library and she worries about the library’s closing announcements: “The library is now closed for the evening but such-and-such a corner will be open for study to create a safe space for students who wish to remain…”, because one might understand the library to be an “unsafe space” if it weren’t for the proposed “safe space” that has somehow magically become available.

Does it automatically become a safer space if it is deemed as one? What, exactly, makes this space safer than it was before? Does it become an isolated safe space or an isolated targeted space?

The same can be thought of campus residences for women. If you talk to a colleague of mine about campus safety, she’ll tell you that drunk, rowdy male students scare the crap outta her. She’s on campus day and night and doesn’t feel safe most of the time. This makes me nauseous.

Instead, we clean up the condiments, take down the T.P. on the tipi, and not take it personally. We create our own safe spaces. That’s what I’m doing.

As a former member of the Transition Year Program — a first-year open studies program for Aboriginal students — I meet regularly with other members to be together, to study together and to look out for one another. We deserve to feel safe on campus so we can learn, so we can feel good. It’s our nationhood. We honour ourselves this way.


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About Corinne Riedel

Corinne Riedel

Corinne Riedel (Métis) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Arts. She is working towards a certificate in Community Service-Learning while majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing, as well as co-instructing a junior English course in Aboriginal literature and writing. Forever reading and writing poetry, tea and fruit in hand, she enjoys being outdoors. Whether on or slightly off campus, she cannot get enough sunshine and conversation with campus cousins. She is interested in knowledge-keeping for the purpose of sharing as much as she is interested in truth, humanization and activism through the arts.