Is Your School a Safe Learning Space?

Is Your School a Safe Learning Space?

What makes an ideal learning environment for you — physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally?

Does your school environment make you feel welcome, supported and able to thrive and grow?

Do you feel like you would learn more, perform better and thrive more fully in a learning environment where everyone shares your race, gender or identity? Why or why not?

In “Seeking a Haven in H.B.C.U.s and Single-Sex Colleges,” Alina Tugend writes:

It has been called the Trump bump, the black renaissance and the Missouri effect: a noticeable increase in students applying to and enrolling in historically black colleges and universities and women’s colleges over the past several years.

“I chose an H.B.C.U. because I felt safe — especially now during the Trump presidency, it’s scary to go out in a world where you feel less than human, and people close to my age are being murdered for the color of their skin,” said Jourdan Clark, 22, a senior at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans.

Faith Wykle, 19, said the presidential election and its aftermath also played a role in why she chose Smith College, an all-women’s school, even though she had assumed she would go to a coed institution.

“When I applied to college it was 2016, and the election stuff was heating up,” she said. “What that showed me was the massive issues our country still faces with sexism and bias. It cast a light on things. I felt like this was a place I could be challenged, but also grow.”

The article continues:

The growing interest in historically black and women’s colleges plays into the debate about “safe spaces” on university campuses — an ambiguous term that some see as a way for students to feel both emotionally and physically secure, while others view it as catering to a generation of “snowflakes” who melt under the slightest disagreement or negativity.

Research from the Gallup organization shows, however, that graduates of H.B.C.U.s tend to report better college experiences than African-American students at mostly white colleges and are almost twice as likely to agree that their university prepared them well for life outside of college. And other research found that women’s institutions — more so than coed ones — have created a climate “where women are encouraged to realize their potential and to become involved in various facets of campus life, inside and outside the classroom.”

The article concludes:

Ms. Wykle, the Smith College sophomore, said she believed that attending a women’s college would make her more, not less, prepared to face life’s travails.

“You don’t leave wanting to hide away from the world,” she said. “I think you leave knowing you want to take it on. A lot of the negative stereotypes associated with women’s colleges and H.B.C.U.s come from a place of fear, because we live in a society that puts down women and people of color.

“Then you have people coming out of those colleges with a sense of who they are and the ability to stand there and say, ‘I’m not afraid — bring what you will and I will bounce back with everything I’ve got’ — and I think that scares a lot of people.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— What is an ideal learning environment for you?

— Is your school a safe learning space? Does it make you feel welcome, supported, and able to thrive and grow? If so, what factors help to make it so? If not, as long as you feel comfortable sharing, please tell us what makes it feel unsafe?

— What recommendations would you make to create a safer learning environment at your school?

— Several students profiled in the article say that the current political climate was a significant reason for their choice of school. How has the current political environment affected your learning or your ideas about what type of college you might want to attend?

— How important is a safe learning environment for you in selecting a college? Does reading the article persuade you to consider historically black colleges and universities and women’s colleges?

— The author says that a common criticism of H.B.C.U.’s and women’s colleges is that they don’t reflect the “real world.” Do you agree?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.