The geographies of university campuses

By Rosa Mas Giralt

Two weeks ago a student of Reutgers University in the US jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Allegedly, his privacy had been violated by his roommates, who had installed a hidden camera in his bedroom and filmed him having sex with another man. Afterwards, they posted the images on the Internet. Following this horrible event, several US Senators have proposed the passing of legislation aimed at protecting students from harassment and bullying in university campuses.

Cases such as this one highlight the importance of critically researching the experiences of minority groups in universities’ spaces. In a forthcoming article for Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Peter Hopkins (2010) calls for more research focusing on the social and spatial relations which characterize university campuses, and their geographies of power, discrimination, resistance and subversion. In this case, the author presents the findings of a project conducted with Muslim students in a UK university and discusses the different ways in which the participants constructed the university campus as both a tolerant and discriminatory place. This type of research is essential in order to inform the creation of more inclusive and non-discriminatory educational spaces, which can foster tolerance, respect and understanding.

Read Kristen Hamill’s report “Legislation targets harassment on campus in wake of Rutgers suicide” – CNN website

Read Peter Hopkins (2010) “Towards critical geographies of the university campus: understanding the contested experiences of Muslim students”. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. [Early view]

1 comment

  1. It is not an stray incidence of violation of individual privacy. Western culture has TAUGHT us many things among them are protection of personal space, privacy and freedom of speech. But to me it is no more than western hypocrisy. A German TV anchor lady admires the Nazi family values closer to Oriental value system than the present Occidental ones. But she did not admire the Nazi Ideology. The next day she was fired i.e., relieved of her services. Does freedom of speech in the West means only to say something filthy or rationalise with malice the Orient value system as barbaric or medieval.
    In Australia a white supervisor spied on a non-white worker when he went to the toilet and found out that instead of using paper, the worker used water to clean himself. This was reported to the management and the worker was fired.
    There may be related many instances where ultra privacy of people has been violated. Obama on being elected as president of the US declared that America (read West) has every right to defend its culture. Don’t “OTHERS” have this right. Culture is a learning process. Interaction, evaluation, utility etc. all go in determining acceptance or rejection of certain values and this process differs from person to person and a person’ evaluation of his/her own culture. Culture and value system cannot be imposed upon people, it is matter of choice. Certain people and culture are easily amenable to Western values. People of two communities from a nation emigrated to the West, have reacted differently. One has even westernised their names and confined religious activities within their homes. The other community cannot think of changing a letter from their name and wants to practice its religious ritual publicly. The religious symbols of this community in an alien cultural landscape becomes conspicuous by their presence and reason of tension as the host community insists on adoption of their culture and value system whether rational or irrational.
    This is simply hypocrisy of the self-styled developed civilisation and nothing else.

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