A social media backlash prompted University of Maryland counselors to rethink how they package group sessions originally described as a “safe space” for white students to talk about race.
The university’s counseling center announced on Thursday that it has discontinued distributing the flyers that created the controversy, WUSA-TV reported. However, it plans to continue the program.
Flyers, posted online and around campus, advertised group sessions for “white students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions and feelings” on race. The flyers read: “Do you feel uncomfortable or confused before, during or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities?”
Black students and alumni appeared baffled that their white counterparts needed a safe space. “Everywhere is a ‘safe white space’ like COME ON,” one of them tweeted.
In response to the wave of criticism, the counseling center explained in a statement that there was a big misunderstanding about the group. “We didn’t choose the right words for the flyers, and we are going to incorporate the feedback into a revision,” it said.
It’s now described as an Anti-Racism and Ally Building group. White participants will still discuss their experiences by engaging in discussions on racism, but from a focus of “promoting anti-racism [to] become a better ally,” the counselors clarified.
Even before Donald Trump became president, there was a wave of racial incidents on college campuses across the nation. Several universities launched countermeasures, including the creation of forums for White students and faculty to examine White racism.
Several schools, including the University of Vermont and the University of Oregon, held White identity retreats to address widespread race-based protests and rising tension on campuses. Students and faculty reportedly discussed White privilege, from personal and systemic levels.
Group sessions on UMD’s campus are scheduled for Thursdays.