Creating Safer Spaces in English Composition Courses After the 2016 Election (Roundtable)


Pedagogy & Professional / Rhetoric & Composition

Lindsay Bryde (SUNY Suffolk County Community College)

In December 2016, The New York Times ran a piece that profiled Republican students on predominantly liberal college campuses that argued that they needed “Safe spaces,” to express their political and social beliefs in the classroom. While the term “Safe space” has been commonly associated with LGBT community, the question of creating an environment conducive to learning is more pressing, regardless of majority or minority status. The so-called majority is a transient concept; it depends on where you go.

A safe space is dependent on the participants and the context of the meeting; it too can become a potentially hostile environment. Realistically, students on both sides of the political divide want and deserve a safer space to learn when confronted with bigotry and discrimination from the opposing side. Administrators and educators need to determine strategies for creating “Safer spaces” in the classroom. A starting place to look is English Composition, a course required of most students regardless of major, nationality, and/or politics.

This roundtable will look at pedagogical strategies for examining the 2016 election in the classroom. English Composition instructors are struggling with approaching relevant concepts (ex. argument) and reading selections that do not alienate portions of the classroom with every choice. While it would be ideal, it is not necessarily feasible or responsible to be bi-partisan with every lesson plan or course in development. The real world will invade the classroom, so it must be approached head on:

· How do students learn to actively engage in their society, their community, through their writing when they fear how others will react to them?

· What ground rules can be set in classroom discussion to facilitate constructive discourse?

· What readings or units are professors developing to meet course objectives and remain relevant in our current political climate?

This roundtable will look at pedagogical strategies for examining the 2016 election in Standard Freshman English Composition courses. English Composition instructors are struggling with approaching relevant concepts (ex. argument) and reading selections that do not alienate portions of the classroom with every choice. While it would be ideal, it is not necessarily feasible or responsible to be bi-partisan with every lesson plan. Submissions should present pedagogical approaches that stimulate constructive inquiry, application of course concepts, and/or address concerns of partisan discourse (in the texts, by instructors, or students).