Safe spaces for college students are under threat

As a Miami-Dade public schools Honors College student, I wanted a safe space. I was lucky enough to find it in the LGBTQ+ school club on my college campus. I vividly remember walking into the club’s first meeting my freshman year.

We spent it exchanging laughter, passions and concerns; it felt like I could talk about anything and be understood.

For the first time in my life, I genuinely felt that I was in the right place.

Now, my safe space, our safe space, is being threatened by Florida’s state government and its constant attacks on LGBTQ+ freedoms and student expression. Ignoring the protests of thousands of students across Florida the Board of Governors earlier this year voted to prohibit public universities from funding activities or organizations that promote DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion.

Only in the eyes of those against DEI do those terms have negative connotations. In the eyes of minority communities marginalized for centuries, these sorts of initiatives provide a source of hope. They are necessary for the development of identities and voices.

INCLUSION ISN’T DIVISIVE

I would not be the person I am today without that queer club on my campus. It did not misguide me, it only empowered me. Isn’t this what an education is meant to do?

How can we call initiatives that create such developments divisive? Aren’t these the standards that we as a society claim to be striving to reach? Despite our state’s seemingly pure desire to create a society devoid of “preferential treatment,” it fails to consider the counterpart: the discriminatory.

Florida’s leaders seem to want a state filled with students who will only memorize and understand the superficial facts of our past but not know enough to recognize that our fight against inequalities is not over. The Florida Board of Governors is promoting its own agenda, one that will take us back to the norms and customs of 1877, where only the rich, white, heterosexual and male were created “equal.”

They are doing so not only by limiting extracurricular activities, but also by directly attacking education itself.

CURRICULUM REPLACEMENT

The Florida Board made the decision to remove Principles of Sociology as a core course option in our curriculum, replacing it with Introductory Survey to 1877, which claims to focus on the forces that shaped America. Why not simply add the course to the curriculum list rather than using it as the catalyst to remove the life-changing study of sociology?

We cannot call education without sociology truly comprehensive; the course serves as the study of society and people. Sociology is inclusive in its nature, which we have seen intimidates our Florida government.

Its replacement with a general history course in our core curriculum not only reinforces that fact, but also rejects the analytical and empathetic aspect the subject brings. When did we decide that the nuances of history and people, which allow us to truly understand what drives society, are not of importance?

Since when has critical thinking been considered “indoctrination?” I have always heard it as a core, crucial aspect of education. However, it is being painted as a negative influence that will divide society.

Each bill, each vote and each new attack by this government is placing a limit on education, rights and critical thought.

If we continue electing such officials, we will risk living in a Florida where only the voices of the few will be heard. Our wars may not be presently led by bloodshed and violence, but that does not mean that the cultural wars waged against the liberation and development of our minority communities are not just as deadly.

We must educate ourselves and fight against those that do not want us to. Otherwise, we will never truly be free.

Sarahi Perez is a board member on the Climate Resilience Committee for the city of Miami and the lead organizer for the CLEO Institute. Andrea Terrero is a Miami Dade Honors College student pursuing an associate’s in English Literature. She is the president of Queer Collective and the co-editor-in-chief of Urbana Literary & Arts Magazine.

 

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