By Gabrielle Kratsas
Colleges today are more diverse than ever, and students are lobbying across the country for their universities to provide a safe space, or inclusive environment where students of any race, gender, sexuality, class and ability can go to find compassion and empathy while escaping the pressures of prejudice.
As the nation saw with the University of Missouri’s system’s uprising and the resulting resignation of its president and the chancellor of the flagship campus in November 2015, safe spaces are becoming a perceived necessity among minority and LGBT students.
The concept of “safe space” originated in the women’s movement where it “implies a certain license to speak and act freely,” according to activist Moira Kenney in her book “Mapping Gay L.A.: The Intersection of Place and Politics”. The first safe spaces appeared in the mid-60s in the form of gay and lesbian bars and consciousness raising groups. Today, a wide variety of colleges and universities have created a network of their own consciousness raising groups, multicultural centers in which they are housed and numerous ways of supporting the LGBT community, whether it’s through Safe Space Training or other means.
To aid students in their search for a place at school where diversity is celebrated and prejudices are unwelcome, we’ve compiled a list of great schools that offer different types of safe spaces.
This list was created using information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database as well as the individual schools’ websites. We started with a long list of colleges that offer at least one type of safe space. We then researched which schools offered multiple or unique safe spaces for different groups of students. Finally, we ranked the schools by their student retention rates and affordability, as reported by College Navigator, so that our No. 1 school has the highest percentage, and No. 20 has the lowest.
20. Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo.
Net Cost: $13,000
Student Retention Rate: 66%
Colorado Mesa University’s Safe Zone Program emphasizes the importance of creating a non-judgmental and non-biased space for students to have an open platform about any prejudicial concerns they may be experiencing. Although the program’s resources are LGBT-related, the actual program does not specify an individual group of people its haven is geared toward.
Colorado Mesa also offers Green Zone training to teach faculty and staff about student veterans. With the assistance from the CMU Student Veterans Association, the program is designed to increase awareness and sensitivity to issues that may face students who have served in the military.
19. Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio
Net Cost: $15,377
Student Retention Rate: 70%
Cleveland State University’s Safe Space Program specifically aims to improve visibility and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) students. This program provides access to and recognition of individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations, who, once certified, will be available to help LGBT students make connections and find resources. Members of this program are able to display the Safe Space symbol on room and office doors to notify students that the faculty or staff member has received the Safe Space resource manual and is committed to increasing their knowledge of and sensitivity to LGBTQ issues.
Another unique safe space on Cleveland State’s campus is the Mother’s Room in the Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center, a safe and secure area that nursing mothers may utilize when in the school’s business building.
18. Armstrong State University in Savannah, Ga.
Net Cost: $14,013
Student Retention Rate: 70%
Armstrong State University’s Safe Space is a three-hour workshop meant to raise awareness and knowledge of LGBTQ issues, as well as suggest ways to better serve as an ally of the LGBT community. After completing this workshop, participants receive a Safe Space decal to display at their workplace, letting students, faculty and staff know that they are supportive allies. One of the several things this program covers is the recognition of appropriate and inclusive language regarding sex, gender and sexual orientation.
The program is a branch of the school’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), which is designed to interact and engage with the underrepresented students of the Armstrong community. According to the office’s site, “OMA symbolizes a safe haven for students and an area on campus that students can readily identify with and call their own.”
17. University of Tampa in Tampa, Fla.
Net Cost: $27,391
Student Retention Rate: 72%
At The University of Tampa, students can help support a more diverse environment by joining or participating in events that the Diversity Fellowship holds. The Diversity Fellowship is a student-led branch of the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement. It is committed to promoting, appreciating and recognizing diversity on campus. This program gauges the campus climate and hosts weekly discussions where students are invited to voice concerns, updates or opinions about diversity-related issues.
Safezone Training is also available to the entire campus at the University of Tampa through scheduled sessions. The school’s definition of a safe zone or a safe space is “a place where all people feel safe, welcome and included. It may be a room, a car, or an entire college campus.”
16. Suffolk University in Boston, Mass.
Net Cost: $27,818
Student Retention Rate: 76%
Like Colorado Mesa, Suffolk University in Boston offers a Green Zone training program that was developed to increase faculty and staff awareness of military and veteran culture. This program was created using the safe zone program model to provide safe spaces on college campuses and positively impact the campus climate.
In addition to the Green Zone training, Suffolk’s Diversity Services offers training programs for Diversity 101, Introduction to Social Justice, Safe Zone, Safe Zone: Core Topics, LGBTQ 101, Disability as Diversity and Yes Means Yes.
15. West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.V.
Net Cost: $9,380
Student Retention Rate: 77%
At West Virginia University, Safe Zone fosters an atmosphere of support and celebration of the LGBT community by identifying, educating and supporting student, staff and faculty allies on campus. This program is co-sponsored by the West Virginia University on Sexual Orientation, the Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services and the President’s Office for Social Justice. It also provides access to more easily discernible individuals who are able and willing to offer support and information for LGBT individuals. Training is available at least once a month during the academic semesters.
A unique safe space on this campus is the Secular Safe Zone program, coordinated by the Secular Student Alliance to train and educate allies who will then create safe spaces where secular students can question, criticize and discuss topics and issues that are important to them.
14. Kent State University in Kent, Ohio
Net Cost: $18,106
Student Retention Rate: 82%
The Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Kent State University offers Safe Space Ally Training to help equip students, faculty and staff with the tools to create safe spaces and inclusive environments for LGBT students. This program enables participants to confront the idea of privilege while learning about the LGBTQ community. The training is a four-hour session that teaches participants about acceptable LGBTQ vocabulary. It includes a panel of students identifying as LGBTQ.
In addition to Kent State’s LGBTQ Student Center, students also have access to the Women’s Center, the Student Multicultural Center and the Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services (SRVSS).
13. Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.
Net Cost: $22,827
Student Retention Rate: 83%
Concordia College’s Safe Space Initiative’s purpose is to make the entire campus a safer and freer environment for all members of the school’s community, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Participants who complete the training and display the safe space sticker are supportive, trustworthy and sensitive to the needs and concerns of LGBTQIA people. This program has the support of the Health Center, Office of Ministry, Residence Life, Enrollment, Counseling Center and Security/Public Safety.
The Office of Intercultural Affairs helps facilitate intercultural connections, experiences and learning by hosting the weekly “King Center ^ Tea House” in the King Intercultural Center, which serves as an informal headquarters and safe space for organizations like the Black Student Union, the International Student Organization, Social Justice and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA).
12. Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.
Net Cost: $15,784
Student Retention Rate: 83%
Kansas State University’s SafeZone is open to every member of the campus community to provide a general safe and equitable environment. In this program, SAFE stands for Students, Administrators and Faculty for Equality, and it was created to better identify people, programs and services that have made a “special commitment to enhancing the quality of the K-State environment.”
The program provides safe zones throughout campus where individuals can find support and assistance while escaping homophobia, hateful acts and sexual violence. This is done by placing the SafeZone symbol on office doors, desks, backpacks, etc. All program events are free and open to the public.
11. Loyola University Chicago in Chicago, Ill.
Net Cost: $31,069
Student Retention Rate: 86%
The Safe Space Workshops at Loyola University Chicago are introductory sessions that educate individuals who want to become allies of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) community of the school. These workshops cover definitions, terms and symbols; LGBTQIA identity development; skills to interrupt heterosexist and sexist behaviors and attitudes; and resources for the LGBTQIA communities.
The office of Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs within Student Life & Engagement offers other unique organizations, workshops and events to help create a more inclusive campus climate. One example is the Ramblers Analyzing Whiteness (RAW) group, which aims to create a closed space on campus for white students to engage in dialogue about their own racial identity.
10. University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.
Net Cost: $17,972
Student Retention Rate: 88%
The University of South Carolina offers a Safe Zone Program, as well as a public Safe Zone Certification Registry that the school updates regularly with those who have completed the training and wish to be listed as an ally. The campus-wide program is meant to visibly identify students, staff and faculty who support the LGBT population, understand some of the issues faceing LGBT individuals and make people aware of the various LGBT resources. After completing the three-hour session, individuals are considered to be up to date on their Safe Zone certification for three years.
The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs sponsors a number of other student organizations that promote diversity and host safe spaces for diverse individuals, such as SAVVY, a multicultural, female discussion-based group that meets twice monthly.
9. American University in Washington, D.C.
Net Cost: $33,778
Student Retention Rate: 89%
American University’s Safe Space Workshop seeks to create a safer and more inclusive environment on campus through reducing heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia. Similar to the others on this list, the program creates a visible network of LGBT and ally members of the campus community.
American also has a Center for Diversity & Inclusion that offers other workshops like Trans* 101, Unmasking Your Privilege and Creating Inclusive Communities. Through educational programming, the Center explores the connections among gender, race, economic status, sexual orientation, culture, ability, religion, political views and more.
8. University of San Diego in San Diego, Calif.
Net Cost: $32,482
Student Retention Rate: 90%
The Safe Space Allies Network at the University of San Diego “enhances the ability of students, staff, administrators and faculty to demonstrate proactively and personally the University’s core values of community, inclusion, and respect for all – regardless of sexual orientation or other identity,” according to the program’s site. This program is grounded in Catholic social thought, which affirms that all human life is sacred. Displaying the Safe Space Ally emblem serves as an indicator for those in the LGBT community to be able to speak openly and seek support.
The United Front Multicultural Center (UFMC) was created after the Aikane O Hawaii, the Asian Student Association, the Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán and PRIDE submitted a proposal to have a center that “would allow the micro-cultures of the University of San Diego thrive to celebrate their own individuality while allowing others to learn and accept them as well.” The Center offers programs like #WhatsTrendingUSD, a dialogue series that brings individuals together to discuss hot topic current events, sociopolitical issues and pop culture that are trending in the news and social media.
7. Chapman University in Orange Calif.
Net Cost: $35,258
Student Retention Rate: 91%
Chapman University’s Breaking Ground Program consists of multiple diversity trainings, which continue to grow and develop as the program expands. The program was established to provide students a resource for diversity and equity training. It originally began as the Safe Space program for LGBT awareness training.
It has since expanded to include other diverse topics like disability, inclusive language, race and class, “with more topics to come,” according to the program’s site. Training programs currently offered are Safe Space, Words Have Power, Chapman Demographics, Disability Awareness, Facilitation 101, Facing Race and Confronting Class.
6. James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
Net Cost: $14,772
Student Retention Rate: 92%
The Safe Zone network at James Madison University consists of faculty, staff and students who want every member of the campus community to have an equal opportunity to learn in a safe, inclusive environment. The program’s webpage offers a wealth of information for the LGBT community, including locations of Safe Zone members throughout campus, downloadable fact sheets and LGBT resources for the area.
The site even has an anonymous event reporting page for both positive and negative events where campus community members can share with others.
5. Davidson College in Davidson, N.C.
Net Cost: $22,457
Student Retention Rate: 95%
Davidson College’s Safe Space program provides education to the Davidson College community about the LGBT population. The three-hour training session explores terminology, key concepts, the history of the LGBT community at Davidson and support and action techniques. Participants also interact with a panel of LGBTQ Davidson students, faculty, staff and alumni. The placards awarded upon completion are then displayed on office and residence hall doors. Participants are given the option to be listed on the website’s list of allies.
The Multicultural House at Davidson serves as a safe space where students of all backgrounds can meet and engage in various learning opportunities presented by faculty, staff and student groups. According to the house’s webpage, “The house serves to foster mutual respect and understanding among – and for all – people of different cultures, backgrounds, experiences and worldviews, and to help the college achieve its stated commitment to diversity.”
4. Claremont Colleges in Claremont, Calif.
Net Cost: $23,982
Student Retention Rate: 96%
The Claremont Colleges are a consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate schools that are adjoining and within walking distance of one another, including Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College. Among the Personal and Social Responsibility Committees at Claremont McKenna College is the Committee on Campus Climate, which endorses the core values of diversity, identity and free speech to create a safe space for students on campus. The college also has a Personal and Social Responsibility Steering Committee, as well as a Committee on Title IX and Sexual Assault.
In light of the uprising of student protests for safe spaces in November 2015, Pomona College’s student newspaper, The Student Life, announced it would begin setting aside some of its column inches to create an unfiltered safe space for “people of color” to voice their experiences.
The Motley Coffeehouse, located at the Scripps College campus is also doing its part by hosting safe space events and following its mission “to connect the Claremont Colleges with local and global communities by perpetuating sustainable supply chains,” “to be a socially responsible business that explores diverse feminist critiques” and “ to foster independent thinking and purposeful change.”
3. University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif.
Net Cost: $16,655
Student Retention Rate: 96%
The University of California at Berkeley has a safe space program for just about everyone, from the Ace Space program for anyone who identifies on the asexual spectrum or who is interested in learning more about ace communities and how to support them, to Rising Immigrant Scholar through Education (RISE), which organizes the UC Berkeley undocumented student community through education empowerment. The mission of RISE is to “cultivate a safe environment for the development and empowerment of the undocumented student community.”
Biyuti offers a safe space for those who identify as queer and questioning Pilipin@, as well as support, community and awareness about issues surrounding this community. The school even has a safe space specifically for LGBTQIA South Asian students, staff and faculty. Finally, the Berkeley Student Cooperative offers more general safe spaces and instructions on how to create a safe space within the low-cost cooperative student housing.
2. University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
Net Cost: $14,833
Student Retention Rate: 96%
At the University of Maryland in College Park, a Safe Space Discussion is held every week in the same room for students to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, and asexual issues. It calls itself a space to decompress, share what’s on your mind and find support. This is offered through the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Equity Center, which also runs the Rainbow Terrapin Network. This network offers two training programs: Rainbow Terrapin Network Membership Training and Trans* Advocacy Training, both of which help students, faculty and staff to create more safe spaces around campus for those in the LGBT community.
Diversity and Inclusion are cherished around the UMD campus, from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion down to the separate schools, like the School of Public Health. On SPH’s website, the school explains in detail how it is continuously working to create a safe space for its students and an inclusive climate on campus.
1. The University of Chicago in Chicago, Ill.
Net Cost: $34,352
Student Retention Rate: 99%
The Office of LGBTQ Student Life at the University of Chicago offers a Safe Space program fosters an inclusive environment that challenges oppression and provides support for LGBT students. “Safe Space creates welcoming physical spaces on campus where LGBTQ students can have a conversation with students, staff and faculty knowing that they have a basic understanding of the challenges these students face in developing their identities.”
The university launched its Center for Identity + Inclusion as the home of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), LGBTQ Student Life and now Student Support Services, a new office focused on supporting first generation, low-income and undocumented students. The Center’s mission is to create intentionally diverse and inclusive communities to bring together students and members of the campus community of call backgrounds.