In recent years, there has been debate about how the commitment to diversity on university campuses intersects with the issues of free speech, safe spaces, and trigger warnings. One way to answer this prompt is to tackle those issues head-on. Some useful context and a few perspectives on these issues can be found here.
If you take this approach to the prompt, you should avoid making generalized statements about whether or not you think “safe spaces” are good or bad. A better approach would be to write a response to a specific quote from someone else. For example, in the series of radio interviews I’ve linked to above, Cameron Okeke discusses the role that safe spaces played in his education. In a piece that he wrote for Vox, he says:
If you want the perspective of someone with PTSD, then you better be prepared to do the work to make them comfortable enough to speak up in class, and that means giving them a heads up when discussing potentially triggering topics.
Do you agree or disagree? What kinds of institutional support beyond trigger warnings might be needed to make people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) comfortable enough to speak up? When you pick out a specific claim and respond to it, you are not only giving your essay a clear focus but also demonstrating that you can participate in a thoughtful discussion of texts — something that you will be doing no matter what university you end up at or what you decide to major in.
Another way to respond to this prompt is to begin with a story from your own personal experience and then discuss how that experience shaped your ideas about what an “inclusive environment” looks like. For example, maybe you went to the county courthouse with your mother and saw a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the courthouse door. How did seeing that statue make you feel? Can an inclusive environment “include” such monuments? Creating a welcoming space might be more than just a matter of welcoming people from a variety of different backgrounds into that space; it might also have something to do with the plaques, memorials, and architecture of the space itself.
A third way of approaching this topic might be to talk about an environment that you felt did a particularly good job of welcoming diverse perspectives and ideas. Maybe you had a high school English teacher who always seemed like she was able to get a good, respectful discussion going. How did she accomplish that? Maybe instead of just tossing out an “open-ended” question and letting the loudest students in the classroom talk, the teacher asked everyone to write down a response first and then had you form smaller discussion groups — giving those who might be more shy an avenue to start speaking.
On its face, this teaching technique might not seem directly related to welcoming people from diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives. But on closer examination, the link might be clear.
If a classroom only has one student from India, and the text for discussion on that particular day happens to be Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, it is very easy for that student to feel the pressure of somehow serving as the “example” of all of Indian culture to the class as a whole. Some students might welcome that role, but for many that can be an uncomfortable position.
Perhaps the small group discussion technique lets students address each other as individuals and sustain a more dynamic conversation that does not put one particular student “on the spot.” If you are interested, USC’s Rossier School of Education has assembled an online library of resources for building an inclusive classroom that you can investigate.
Whatever approach you take, I would encourage you to focus in on something specific: a specific quote from someone, a specific personal experience, or a specific form of institutional support that you encountered. This prompt runs the risk of inviting vague pontificating, but a thoughtful discussion usually begins with an analysis of a specific text or situation from which more general conclusions are later developed.
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What can I say about AAU? Absolutely nothing positive!!
When I interviewed for the financial aid position with their Financial Aid Director, I was painted a picture about a university that cares about its employees and rewards hard work because they believe in the people whom are serving their students. It is such a classic example of bait and switch if I have ever seen one in my life. Schools such as AAU are the reason why for-profit schools are getting a bad image. I will not be surprised that if in a few years they are forced to shut down, considering that they have only had financial aid for little less than three years and will soon be required to report their gainful employment data and as for their default rate, it is going up. I was hired by their financial aid director to do one thing and my pay was based on that fact but once I started, I was made to do so many other things that was out of my pay range, when I spoke with the financial aid director I was made promises that never kept and when I went to HR about I was just pushed to the side. Does this company not value their employees? It appears not!! Don’t believe me, their financial aid department has had a HUGE turnover rate and any that is looking for a job will see that they are always looking for replacements. Its not that they are growing, it’s the fact that people keep leaving. The only way ahead at AAU, is if you kiss the right person in the rear. Also working with their SALES team is a nightmare of people backstabbing just to get the number and do not care about the student. From their Chief Enrollment Management Officer to the everyday manager of their “Sales Team” not a single one of them holds a degree higher than a High School Diploma. So ask yourself this, how can they in their right minds try and sell these degrees to the students when their own sales teams barely made it past 12th grade. There is no reason why they shouldn’t have a degree and get this, all of their management team on the sales floor are going to AAU for their degrees and they can’t even pass the classes. Do yourself a favor and don’t answer their call. And if you are looking for a job in financial aid, don’t do it. You will wish after three days that you never took the job. If you don’t believe me about how much of a obtuse their Chief Financial Officer is, once you find out his name, ask around and anyone that has worked with him, will have nothing nice to say about him.