Finding your safe space

Women from different on-campus organizations share their safe spaces

Traversing the world as a woman can be a scary thing. The first thing you are told when you’re old enough to go out into the world is “be careful” and something along the lines of “always carry something to protect yourself.”

When coming to college for the first time, it’s essential for women to find places with other women that relate to them, along with spaces that make them feel safe enough to freely express themselves. On Ferris’ campus, many have found safe spaces through groups like sororities, Registered Student Organizations and offices that are welcoming to all students.

Third-year social work major Hazelle Williams is in multiple RSO’s at Ferris. They all give her a safe space for different reasons and have all become a part of her. She is the president of the Delta Zeta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., attends the Real-Life campus ministry and works in the Office of Multicultural Student Services.

“[The] OMSS makes me feel comfortable just being Black on campus,” Williams said. “The campus ministry that I go to makes me feel safe as a Christian and be able to talk about and share my faith.”

The SGR sorority organization was founded in 1922 at Butler University, where members of the Ku Klux Klan resided right across the street from the university at the time. During that period, the founders created the sorority to create a safe space for Black women.

“In the face of all that adversity, we were able to rise above and lift one another up,” Williams said. “If the world isn’t going to, we got to make sure we’re willing to do it for each other. So that’s what we’re about.”

Second-year pharmacy graduate student Kalisa Williams also found comfort in a sorority. She is the president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She finds comfort in DST and in old activities she used to do when she first came to Ferris.

“When I first got here, I did have a safe space,” Kalisa said. “I played basketball when I got here, so the basketball team was kind of my favorite space coming in. Then after my first semester, I started going into the OMSS office and started seeing more people of color on campus.”

Being a woman to Kalisa means taking pride in who you are and feeling confident in yourself and in the things that women are able to do that others can’t.

“A woman is everything,” Kalisa said. “I feel like we try to bring women down a lot, but being a woman is probably one of the most amazing things you can do. It just shows everybody that not only men can do it, a woman can do it too.”

Although sororities are a way to create a safe space and give a place of sisterhood, some people may want something that is less of a commitment. Health care systems administration junior Nicole Ly frequently interacts with student organizations.

Ly started at Ferris earlier in the pandemic and was unable to find safe spaces in places like the David L. Eisler center or the IRC connecter. Instead, she found that offices like the OMSS and the Center for Latin@ Studies gave her comfort.

“I feel like the moment you walk into the door at the OMSS or the CLS, you’re greeted. And even though it seems like a really menial thing, it just makes my day,” Ly said. “As a student, when you’ve had a long day or just want to see a friendly face, you can know that there’s going to be someone there to listen to you and help you.”

Ly’s current perspective shows that Women’s History Month is a time when we can celebrate our achievements as women and come together and lift each other up. However, it’s also a time for everyone to celebrate women.

“We have a special month dedicated to us, especially with all the oppression that we have,” Ly said. “I feel like it’s really important to acknowledge this and continue to grow into a better, more efficient community together.”

While Ly was able to join an organization as a safe space for her, Unique Robinson created an RSO for Black women to dance and show off their personalities. Robinson created the Golden Majorettes RSO because of her past dancing experience and the lack of representation on the Ferris dance team.

“I noticed that the dance team that was here wasn’t really a form of dance that I liked… I didn’t really see that many [Black students] on the team,” Robinson said. “So, I was like, ‘I don’t really think it’d be a good fit for me. Why don’t I start something where it’s only people of color?’”

In Robinson’s opinion, the safe spaces that make women feel comfortable depend on the women’s personal preferences.

“If you like dance, [join] the majorette team,” Robinson said. “If you’re looking for more of a sisterhood, there’s always the You Beautiful Black Woman RSO and Sistah Circle program. But then if you’re looking for change, there’s [the] Black Student Union.”

Each of these groups offer women a safe space on campus for different reasons. Working together to participate in and expand the reach of these spaces gives more women a chance to be free and truly comfortable.