This story has been updated with comment from Dan Petz, who reached out to The Eyeopener after the time of publication.
By Keith Capstick
A Ryerson Marketing Association (RMA) executive sparked controversy online after posting a Facebook status criticizing the need for safe spaces on university campuses.
Dan Petz, the RMA’s vice-president corporate relations, described these spaces as “fascist practices” in his status. He also blamed the “weak liberal left” for the upswing in terrorist activity in the world and then went on to use safe spaces on campuses as an example.
“Please if you need a safe space go home, you can be safe there. I am growing sick of this childish nonsense and I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to be coddled like a little bitch. I am not going to take it anymore, and neither should you,” wrote Petz, a third-year commerce student.
Petz said in a later interview that he stands by what he posted “100 per cent.” “It’s totally within my free speech rights,” he said.
Safe spaces are events or conversations created to allow the voices of marginalized communities to speak openly without the apprehension and fear that an oppressing voice might be in the room. Often safe spaces restrict voices of privilege in order to ensure the comfort of attendees. For example, a safe space for racialized students would only welcome those who identify as racialized.
“The existence of a safe space is hard to understand for those students who have never had to access them,” Rabia Idrees, Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vp equity said in an email. “It’s tough to have the assurance of spaces like these in other environments and having them at Ryerson allows students who don’t come from a place of privilege access the classroom just like how students with privilege can.”
Idrees said the assumption that students should go home if they want a safe space is problematic because not every home is safe.
“He failed to understand that not every student can be a white straight male on campus, free from any sort of systematic discrimination,” she said. “Asking [students] to essentially suck it up and not expect any accommodation is not only insensitive, but unjust because someone like him does not go through those issues.”
Petz’s stance on the issue stems from what he refers to as the “political correctness movement” — which he says isn’t about “being nice, or being kind … it’s about control.”
“I’m not out here to offend people,” he said. “Safe spaces aren’t the problem. Safe spaces are a symptom of a greater problem, of extreme political correctness and victimization … we’re not doing these people any favours by shielding them.”
Alyson Rogers, co-founder of the Ryerson Feminist Collective, strongly disagrees, adding that there is a clear need for safe spaces on campus.
“Every time someone who holds a privileged identity and does not feel they need safe spaces speaks out against them, we have to defend them all over again,” she said. “Clearly power and privilege at systemic levels are at play here. I want to be clear though that this is much bigger than this individual student, these are systemic issues.”
Petz currently sits on the RSU course union committee and also ran for a senate position this past month as the representative from the Ted Rogers School of Management.
The status was shared and denounced widely, but has since been made publicly unavailable by Petz and cannot be accessed without the direct link.
Despite the backlash, Petz said several students have reached out to him in support of his views.
“I’ve had a silent majority of students who have been contacting me through various platforms supporting me, but they’re afraid to talk about it because of the bullying tactics and the intimidation and, quite frankly, the social media dog-piling that occurred on me after I voiced my opinion,” he said. “Because I’m a straight white male I’m the bad guy, when really, they’re just shooting the messenger.”
The RMA distanced themselves from Petz’s comments in a statement released on their Facebook page. Petz said he intends to keep his position and wants to continue his involvement with the RSU.
With files by Nicole Schmidt
Clarification: A previous version of this story said that Petz deleted his status. Petz did not delete his status, but it has been made publicly unavailable and cannot be accessed without a direct link.