Safe spaces debate: where do they fit at Ryerson?

Student exec Dan Petz and RSU vice-president equity, Rabia Idrees spoke to The Ryersonian about the place of safe spaces on campus.

(Ryersonian file photo)


Two weeks ago, The Ryersonian published an article regarding inflammatory comments about safe spaces that a Ryerson Marketing Association executive, Dan Petz, had made on his Facebook page.

Both the article and Petz’s comments caused considerable controversy online.


There were legitimate concerns from both pro- and anti-safe space supporters on social media and in the comments section of our website.

In the interest of furthering the conversation, The Ryersonian sat down with Petz and Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president equity, Rabia Idrees, to talk about what safe spaces at Ryerson look like, where they fit in our campus and address some of the criticisms that both sides have raised.

The full discussion is included below.



  1. this article triggered me, I need a safe space now

  2. Miller Henry says:

    I think the bigger issue here is the fact that I can’t get through ten seconds of this god damn video without it buffering. Whoever is in charge of formatting and posting this video, please fire them, thanks.

  3. Hank Reardon says:

    All this talk of safe spaces has made me fear safe spaces. I need a safe space to extricate myself from people who want to belong to a safe space…

  4. People who feel they need a safe space should stay home or grow up. Students don’t pay thousands to go to school only to be inconvenienced by people who should not even be there.

  5. Social activists see certain identity groups as trauma victims in need of therapy, not students in need of education.

    But activists do such groups a disservice, for the coddled are poorly prepared for the real world upon graduation.

  6. The fact that Ryerson has a VP of equity and that they insist they need safe spaces tells me that Ryerson is not preparing students to go into the real world. What we need to be doing is ensuring students have the self confidence and self respect that they know who they are and what they believe. People who are self confident don’t need to be protected from hearing or seeing something that challenges them to look at the world differently. They don’t need everyone else in the world to affirm and validate them. It seems Ryerson is intent on producing sensitive little souls who are incapable of dealing with criticism or differing opinions. Society needs more self reliant individuals not more children who want everyone else to change so they can feel comfortable.

  7. Be elitist about ideas and egalitarian about individuals. The deutsche physik wasn’t wrong because Einstein was Jewish, they were wrong because their views of how science should work didn’t match empirical evidence.

    “I do not have the right to tell the LGBT community what is right for them…” and yet there appears to be no problem telling Dan what he should be allowed to say. Safe spaces are (from the viewpoint of one outside the cocoon of higher education for over 20 years) regressive and harmful to society. University is suppose to prepare students for joining society by being able to think, contrast different viewpoint (accepting or rejecting on a personal basis), and hold their own. Actively silencing those with whom you disagree is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “NAH NAH NAH NAH I CAN’T HEAR YOU”.

    Note that what I’ve referred to is words and speech only. If one is physcially threatened, the police exist to keep you safe. My words cannot physically hurt you. And if you’re not grown up enough to realize that then you have no place in a society of adults.

  8. Safe spaces. Anyone who wants an education, all you gotta do, avoid going anywhere with safe spaces. Shun the people who desire them. Don’t accept a job offer from anyone with diversity consultants. Just a few easy things that guarantee a happy, productive life.

  9. She is a “business person”? Yikes !

  10. Grow up! In the real world there are NO safe spaces.

  11. Fantastic debate! Really wish Rabai would have prepared better and presented herself more professionally. I was previously unaware that two white students were removed from a forum. We need to be careful in our pursuit of equality not to go beyond just that. Once privilege is awarded to a specific demographic to “even the score” the message of equality is lost.

  12. The Student Unions of most universities used to exist to pay for the building and amenities, as people wanted to have fun while studying. Why on earth does any university need a VP equity? THIS is a part of the problem. The other part of the problem is that the so-called “communities” who meet for sharing can morph into activists to change the small university world, according to their views.

    For heaven’s sake, we have freedom of association in this country. So set aside some meetings that anyone can attend. For other un-booked rooms, set aside some times when any small group can gather and no one who wants them to meet should go or protest (where are the campus cops?)! First-come, first-served used to work.

    Dan Petz makes some very valid points, but it is really none of his business if some “communities” want to “self-victimize” while meeting on campus, unless they collectively start demanding stupid or expensive things (which does happen, unfortunately). The real problem is excessive activism on campus, which is the real problem.

    Young people, you are there to learn. And that means not jumping on any bandwagon without understanding all the FACTS. Remember, the scientific method!

    Rabia Idrees has one valid point, as we do have a right to life, liberty and freedom of association, but there is no right to a “safe space” room in a public space for thoughts or more importantly, an environment where no person is ever offended at a university, which she sort of defines as a place where people of like minds can meet without anyone there dissenting to any ideas of the group. So the Student Union is hypocritical.

    I am not personally aligned with this group, but, until you give them a “safe space”, your arguments are specious at best, and actually selective and discriminatory.

    Why not have all those fearful people in your favoured “communities” go to a coffee shop somewhere instead?

    To normal Ryerson students: ignore all this stuff, forget protests, learn and get on with meeting your own goals of becoming educated adults.

  13. Withheld by request says:

    Safe spaces are a wonderful thing. As noted by our VP Equity, they have to be specific to a group. However, I have a specific identity that is a combination of several, and in fact when I enter the safe speace for one, my other identities are often violated. So because I am conservative politically, I am never been welcome in the First Nations safe space, where that part of my identity should be safe, and in fact my entire identity is violated when I hear others there converse about their liberal ideologies. Nor am I welcome in the LGBTQ+ space, where I also should be, because what I like is so different it can’t even be described here.

    All I can think is that we need INDIVIDUAL safe spaces, like study cubicles with walls and doors, that we can use personally when we can’t fit other safe spaces. But they’d need thousands of them, so that’s not practical. The only solution I can see is that ALL the safe spaces should be individual, like a Cone of Silence. The way to make that happen is for Ryerson to issue to each of us, a set of earmuffs and those eye covers like you get on some airlines that let you block out the movie when you want to sleep.

    That’s my comment. Unfortunately, now that I have shared my inner identity with you, I don’t even feel safe to leave my name and email address because people who read this and disagree may try to violate my personal sanctity.

  14. I think Dan made a very good point, that being, segregatingbring more harmonization an understanding. the marginalized students will not work. Open forums where all can speak will certainly.
    I also agree that perhaps these students are not yet emotionally mature enough. For example gay people I know are not afraid to discuss that topic openly as are many Muslim people I know.

  15. I like this guy. I was even willing to put up with aunty-thesis as opposed to an-tith-a-sis but he lost me at So-crates.

    Doesn’t change the fact he is completely right. But dude, work on presentation.

  16. Dear students who someday want a job
    Please note, if you have ‘safe space’ anywhere your CV then I will not hire you into my workspace.

    Just so you know. Decide as you wish.

    A real boss

  17. Safe spaces, microaggression, and the whole social justice movement are just the pathetic results of a feeble decaying society that has bred children who know no real hardship, and will never contribute to the future of human progress in any tangible way. When they are gone, only the record of their childish whining will be left behind.

  18. I had to laugh at the irony of saying that “safe spaces” are for a “free flow of ideas”. The hypocrisy and irony could not be greater.

  19. Thanks for this… Now I know to avoid hiring graduates from Ryerson. Clearly students at this school can’t handle the real life pressures they’d find at a real job. Too bad that my taxes likely will have to support them when they end up drawing welfare after their failed careers.

    The rebutting student to the regressive though is welcome to apply any time.

  20. The safe space you need already exists. They are small, white rooms with soft pillowy walls. There are no windows, so you would not risk having to look out and see something triggering. There are friendly people who are trained protect you from microaggressions. You would be safe to curl up, suck your thumb, and pretend that the world is full of agreeable unicorns (unless you’re afraid of unicorns).

  21. I would like to donate a box of brand new Pampers, to the Safest Space crowd. Because 2016.

  22. Dear Boss
    Don’t worry. They won’t be applying for any of your jobs. They will all end up working for the government in mindless tasks where they can spend 2 hours a day doing actual work for the taxpayer, and in the rest of their time concentrate their efforts on finding a safe space and identifying microaggressions and racism everywhere. They will all have job security, and benefits, and given that you are likely paying more than 50% tax, and they will be making the rules for our future “safe” society, it’s more like you will be working for them, then them working for you.

    Enjoy that thought.

  23. This VP “Equity” got pwned!!!

  24. Both sides have legitimate concerns?
    Er, no.
    Giving equal time to idiots is idiotic.

  25. Grow up you are going to get your feeling hurts it’s called life. These people are what’s wrong with the world today. Poor poor pitiful me you hurt my feelings because I’m a stupid freak and I want everyone to know but I don’t want to be judged. Don’t want people judging you, then don’t interact with people

  26. I feel sorry for any normal student that thought they were going to Ryerson for a education. The reputation from this collective of childish wingnuts will have a lasting impact on any potential employer with a aversion to baby sitting. The reputation Ryerson is gaining will have a negative impact that will destroy any possibility of being hired in the real word after graduation. The young man in the debate was correct. The woman was wrong. In the real world it’s that simple.

  27. Darrel Claire says:

    I think I am starting to understand:

    Some groups are weaker than other groups and need safe spaces.
    Some groups (e.g., WASP men) are stronger than others, and don’t need safe spaces.

  28. So – the VP of equity is a “business student.”
    Good luck with that.

  29. Jim Hutchinson says:

    I see the cultural Marxists are at it again. God help this country.

  30. white is a race too says:

    I fully agree with Dan here. we shouldn’t be encouraging segragation especially in a place of higher learning. When these students hit the real world there won’t be these “safe spaces” for them to go run and hide. People need thicker skin. I also find it outrageous that white people were deined in one of these safe spaces, Rabia is basically saying white people don’t receive racist comments.. thats a joke, they do just like other cultures do. Saying that white people cannot be apart of a multi race safe space is in fact racist, and like Dan said its regressive, its the same as white people saying people of coloured skin had to drink from a different water fountain in the 1950’s. Rabia says that we don’t know what every demographic has to endure, and sure white people have had it pretty easy but Rabia being a muslim woman has never experienced racist comments about being white, but I’m sure she has endured white people making racist comments about her skin colour. Which possibly could be why she thinks that white people do not get victimized because of their skin colour, but Toronto/ The GTA area has more immigrants and people of coloured skin than any of the surrounding areas of the GTA. Stats show that in upcoming years white people will be the minority in Canada. So when you have this many people of coloured skin in one area I’m sure you will be able to find at least couple white people that have been bullied by people of coloured skin and I’m sure those people may need a safe space. or they go home and deal with their problems because they’re thick skinned and realize how ignorant the world can be.

  31. I am not, nor have I ever been, a safe space. I don’t care about you. Get used to it.

    The World…

  32. Dear Students, you can quickly and easily create your own, individual safe spaces by implementing a technique employed widely in the Leftosphere. Follow these instructions carefully…..
    1. Insert index fingers firmly into ears.
    2. Close eyes tightly shut.
    3. Screech “la-la-la-la-la…………..” until any threat diminishes.
    4. Repeat as necessary.

    There, now. You’re all safe. Now, wasn’t that easy?

  33. Dear Special Snowflakes,

    We get it you’re unique just like everyone else.

    I have some advice for the future, if you take a position with the words “green”, “sustainable”, “diversity” or “equality” in the title then you’re an expendable lightweight.

    Learn not to take things personally and you will have a personal safe space you can take anywhere.

  34. What is the definition of “safe” being used here? There is not a single person on the Ryerson campus who is not safe, by any reasonable meaning of the term.
    It’s time to call these “safe spaces” what they really are — tribal enclaves. People who retreat to “safe spaces” are not seeking refuge from an oppressive society. They are seeking refuge from people they have decided they don’t like.

  35. Vonvervengarten says:

    I assume all the safe spacers have someone funding their ridiculous foray into pseudo adulthood. Either mommy and daddy or Aunt Kathy at Queen’s park. Someone with the temerity to put themselves through school would never need to regress into the happy play school rooms they must grudgingly fund with extra shifts at the coffee shop.

  36. The root of the immaturity evident in some of these students is a lack of self esteem and self worth. Self esteem isn’t something you wake up one morning and have. It comes from habitually doing worthy things over a long period of time. Very few farm kids, regardless of their colour or religion, would be found in any safe space at a university. They’re confidence comes from getting up early in the morning and putting in a couple of hours work before the school bus even arrives at their home.
    If you sincerely feel threatened or marginalized at a modern Canadian university, go volunteer at a hospital, animal shelter, old age care home or homeless shelter. Join the military, the volunteer fire department or even a neighborhood watch. Soon you will see what real problems are and develope the self worth and maturity to deal with them.

  37. Grow up.

  38. Honestly.... says:

    The actual definition of racialization is not everyone except white people as she explicitly claims. If you’re too lazy to actually understand the concept just Google it. You’ll get a two sentence description that my 5 year old cousin could comprehend.

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