BCM210 Research Proposal: Safe Spaces at Uni

For my project I propose to conduct first hand research surrounding safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ students in our university. The primary question of this research is: how effective are safe spaces in our university setting? The aim is to use a number of research questions to determine the effectiveness of these spaces. This will include building a definition of a safe space with the help of students who use and help actualise safe spaces in the university and determining the extent to which safe spaces around the university are easily identifiable and succeed in their aims. This will incorporate emphasis on stickers and signs that declare public spaces, such as the library, as safe spaces and whether this is a claim that can be supported. By asking students how they feel about such labels declaring safe spaces, as well as speaking to library staff about how they uphold the safety of those utilising the space, I aim to find out how reliable and appreciated safe spaces around the university are.

The research method will use qualitative questionnaires, preferably conducted through in person interviews although written answers would also be an effective collection method if coordinating interview time with people is not possible due to my limited time on campus. In addition to thoughts on the definition of safe space, questions that may be used include the influence of the university context on the effectiveness of the safe space, identifying safe spaces around the university and ascertaining which spaces students utilise.

I have found several articles about research surrounding safe spaces, especially in relation to LGBTQI+ youth and the importance of having a safe space in removing a sense of isolation and developing identity. One journal article focuses specifically on the importance of libraries as a place of free and equal access to information where LGBTQIA+ people can access information and be treated with respect while connecting to the wider community, especially in remote areas (Day, 2013). The article discusses the importance of providing people with the knowledge that they are not alone by providing posters and reading lists that support LGBTQIA+ people and attempt to educate the general public (Day, 2013). My research intention is to find out if strategies such as this are effective.

Two other articles outline the importance of alliances, peer support and safe spaces in high schools (Fetner et al, 2012; Ratts et al, 2013). These articles are focused on American and Canadian students that are obviously younger than university students but both highlight the importance of effective safe spaces in learning environments (Fetner et al, 2012; Ratts et al, 2013). A British study interviewed students about feeling different, isolated, and unable to find others like themselves as well as the positive effect a safe space can have (Crowley et al, 2007).

This range of articles show that research surrounding safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people is a vast area of interest to a range of people and qualitative research methods are common in finding the feelings of people that use these areas (Day, 2013; Fetner et al, 2012; Ratts et al, 2013; Crowley et al, 2007). I have not yet found research specific to Australian universities and am interested in developing my own understanding of this area through this research project. This could also have the potential of helping groups in the university who coordinate and promote safe spaces by increasing knowledge on how students view safe spaces and how to make safe spaces more noticeable and effective or continue to support existing spaces that already fulfil the goals of a safe space at university.



Day, S 2013, ‘Libraries as LGBTIQ Venues’, Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 46-50.

Fetner, T, Elafros, A, Bortolin, S & Drechsler, C 2012, ‘Safe spaces: gay-straight alliances in high school’, Canadian Review of Sociology, vol. 49, no. 2, pp. 188-207.

Ratts, MJ, Kaloper, M, McReady, C, Tighe, L, Butler, SK, Dempsey, K & McCullough, J 2013, ‘Safe Space Programs in k-12 schools: creating a visible presence of LGBTQ allies’, Journal of LGBT Issues in Counselling, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 387-404.

Crowley, C, Harre, R & Lunt, I 2007, ‘Safe Spaces and Sense of Identity: Views and Experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People’, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, vol. 11, no. ½, pp. 127-143.




2 thoughts on “BCM210 Research Proposal: Safe Spaces at Uni

  1. A very topical and potentially very controversial topic, I think you hit all the right notes in terms of your intentions to research this topic i would like perhaps some clarity as to whether this study is exclusively aimed towards Queer Spaces or are you talking more broadly than that if it is the former, I would like to see some research addressing the negative response to the trend of safe spaces on campuses, I understand that there is considerable backlash when it comes to the funding of these spaces using university revenue. I feel this would be an interesting point to address.

    However if you are strictly addressing the former I’d like to see what kind of results you get particularly about shifting attitudes about progressiveness in the public sphere particularly when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights and how our public discourse is shifting to accommodate concepts like safe spaces. I feel like this is where the crux of your research should be conducted.understanding how the public feels about this issue will help you to make recommendations for how this work could help improve the quality of life for all involved and for them to reach a core understanding of the issue.

    all the same I think this is a good starting point and I wish you all the best with your research

  2. This important topic is potentially quite sensitive so there are some issues with your research strategy. My suggestion is that you narrow your focus to the least sensitive part of this, which is probably to focus on the staff members associated with e.g. safe space in libraries. If you choose to talk to people who can give you opinions that are associated with their formal roles, the situation becomes less sensitive, so you could also talk to people who have been active in advocating for these spaces on campus, and develop a timeline for the policy background to this.

    I think Bradley is exactly right though, that one key group who really determine how these spaces work are those who have a negative response to them. Researching and publishing evidence of their attitudes may be beyond the ethical framework around your study, but I wonder if you can find evidence from other studies about this aspect in particular?

    What a thoughtful, important thing to be looking into. Thank you.

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