Upcoming Safe Spaces series to focus on controversial topics

Sarah Matthews

Four Kent State professors in the College of Arts and Sciences have begun a progressive forum series titled “Safe Spaces” where students and faculty can discuss contentious issues in a safe environment.

“The reason we went with the name Safe Spaces is a response to the movement that’s taking over the United States where people say college students need to be protected or need to have their minds coddled, so they’re not confronted with things that upset them or topics that are difficult to discuss,” said associate professor for Department of Political Science Joshua Stacher. “We take the view that this is the central role of the university.”

Stacher is working with Julie Mazzei, associate professor in the department of political science; Amoaba Gooden, chair of the department of Pan-African studies and Patrick Gallagher, associate professor in the department of modern and classical language studies to improve discourse on campus.

The first event in the Safe Spaces series, “Are You Entertained Yet? The Politics of Discriminatory Sports Mascots,” will examine the use of Native American names for sports teams and mascots.

“This is about sports mascots, absolutely, but it’s really about the Native American community,” Stacher said.

The event features three speakers, including Dave Zirin, sportswriter and editor for The Nation; Cynthia Connolly, citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and member of the Cleveland Native American Community; and Margie Villafane, a Hunkpapa Dakota and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota.

Native Americans have long protested for multiple professional sports teams to consider a name change, particularly the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians for its use of the Chief Wahoo logo.

Stacher said the event is open to anyone, regardless of point of view on the subject matter, because he believes it will help create a solid community on campus.

“At the end of the day, it’s fine if we disagree on points of view,” Stacher said. “It’s about learning how to interact and be able to disagree with one another, but still be able to have the conversation.”

The first event will be held Thursday, Sept. 24 in the Kent Student Center Kiva at 7:00 p.m.

Sarah Matthews is the student politics beat reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].