NAU Students Demand Safe Space, Cheng Resignation

Small group gathers to protest Cheng | Facebook post calls for resignation

A small group of students is grabbing media attention after demanding that Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng either step down or provide them safe spaces. The ultimatum was issued by a group calling itself NAU Student Action Coalition.

Cheng had made the mistake of calling for students and faculty to respect each other during a campus forum held Wednesday, March 29, at the High Country Conference Center. During her presentation, which was followed by a question and answer session, Cheng discussed a variety of topics, including NAU’s budget and tuition proposal, the importance of state support, enrollment and retention growth and expanding NAU’s reach throughout the state and online.

It was her response to a question by NAU sophomore Breanna Kramer that appeared to outrage the small group. Kramer asked Cheng, “How can you promote safe spaces, if you don’t take action in situations of injustice, such as, last week, when we had the preacher on campus and he was promoting hate speech against marginalized students? As well as, not speaking out against racist incidents like blackface two months ago by student workers followed by no reform and no repercussions?”

“As a university professor,” Cheng replied, “I’m not sure I have any support at all for safe space. I think that you as a student have to develop the skills to be successful in this world and that we need to provide you with the opportunity for discourse and debate and dialogue and academic inquiry, and I’m not sure that that is correlated with the notion of safe space as I’ve seen that.”

Kramer claims that wearing blackface is a hate crime. However, according to the Race and Social Justice Law Review, “Blackface exemplifies racist stereotypes perpetuated over hundreds of years used formerly in theatre and vaudeville shows and more modernly to stereotype and characterize blacks in racially denigrated ways. Blackface today is inherently racist because it carries the same meaning from hundreds of years of racism- blacks are inferior, in fact the reason blackface exists is because they were not allowed to act in shows. However, the law allows racism. The law protects free speech. And the law permits people to paint their faces black, so long as it isn’t done in a threatening way, intended to harass, assault, or bully black people. But isn’t that exactly what blackface, regardless of intent, is doing? Of course it is. The problem is, hate crimes are established by intent, the act was intended to affect a certain group.”

After the forum, the group issued a statement on Facebook issuing their ultimatum:

President Cheng’s answers at the forum were insufficient and if she’s not ready or willing to engage in these serious conversations and more importantly work towards solutions, then we do feel her resignation is necessary. We want and deserve a university president who works to provide the purpose of higher education, which is to enrich the lives of many people, including students, faculty, staff and the larger flagstaff community.

We were guaranteed access, quality and excellence in our higher education experiences and far too many students are experiencing the exact opposite. We work to empower students, raise awareness around the current campus climate and build student power to enact real sustainable changes that cultivate a university where every student can learn, grow and thrive. We will post more information about our campaigns soon.

In 4 days, the post has only garnered 7 “likes.”

Related articles:

Arizona’s Leaders And Educators Are Failing Studentkind

NAU Students Issue “List Of Demands” Nautakeover


  1. We have been conquered from within. Safe spaces, gender free writing guidelines, time out and space for Muslim prayer, but no Bibles or Christian prayer allowed. The political correctness meme is destroying our once very successful culture in these (once united) United States. Schools used to consider educating the young the primary goal. Teaching math skills, language and reading skills, science, history, good health habits. Now, children learn “revised math”, fraudulent science (Al Gore, et all), little or no history, every action is somehow racist or a “cultural appropriation”. I, too, am tired; and often think, “Stop the world; I want to get off”!

  2. While I applaud Cheng for her statements, what is missing from this conversation is that NAU is on its 4th edition of Writing Style Guidelines which call for writing gender neutral. Ms. Cheng says nothing about the dozens of words that students are encouraged to not use in their writing. It appears to me that “Safe Spaces” exist in how a student expresses himself in writing.

    Perhaps some professors follow the guidelines and have a more strict enforcement of the Writing Style Guidelines. Perhaps the root of this issue is NAU having arbitrary guidelines on words or phrases that are acceptable vs not. All attention is on one professor and one student. How many more are affected by this and have remained silent?

    I saw this the instructor, Ms. Scott on a TV interview and she blames the student Ms. Jeffers for the “hate” email others are sending. Ms. Scott is mis-directing her frustration at her student. Ms. Jeffers didn’t appeal to the public to send email or voicemail to the instructor.

    Maybe Ms. Cheng can focus some attention on the gender neutral writing guidelines to see if it truly matches her talk on not having safe spaces.

    Ms. Cheng also sits on the State Board of Education. She has many platforms to promote student learning and growth.

  3. met a man who used to pull the toggle of a B-17 yesterday – he’s near is final days – the last one of his group to still be on the planet – they pulled him from his chair got him to his wheelchair where he moved out to a common place to join a couple of others at a table where they pulled out the chips for a poker game. Life’s a gamble – you fight sometimes for what you believe – in those days of being 19 years of age 45,000 of those guys he was with didn’t come home for lack of a ‘safe space’ for they were being killed by the real Nazi foes of that day so these little snowflake folks wouldn’t have to life with that reality of real knuckle dragging killers… these little NAU’ers have some life to live – try not to get in their own way and grow up to reality. The types of real knuckle still do exist and they are coming to kill them they are going to have to resist or meet their fate as fodder.. no space spaces – is lesson one.

  4. I think a big part of all this hubbub is in made mention of in the first sentence of this story. “A small group of students is grabbing media attention”. They’re not “grabbing” it, it is being given to them just like ‘most’ of the (not all) stupid protesting that is put on TV. These are mostly spoiled kids who want attention and newspapers, social medias and digital news simply give them all they can handle. We need some real stories that people really care about. There are a lot of good kids doing good that never get the attention they deserve. Cheng has it right. Can anyone in their 50s or 60s reading this imagine what our Coaches, Principals, Deans, Drill Sergeants or even worse, our Dad’s would have said (or done) if we would have asked for or demanded a safespace??

  5. I am unaware of the “back stories” at NAU, but I seem to agree most with President Cheng and would applaud her courage and honesty. Any leader must remain aware of reality and ultimate goals, and she appears to be a good leader, even if she gets blamed for children’s tears.

  6. Well what do you expect from a kalifornia scool? I mean an east LA school, I mean well you get the idea. These little whiners are mainly I believe from out of state or were raised in the east LA area.

    They cannot/will not accept any ones ideas that they need to be self sufficient and as to the ‘stuff’ they referred to, where was the news coverage of any of it?

  7. Enough of AZ university policy by fringe “protesters” and cowardly leaders, including those on the Board of Regents who allow such nonsense. President Cheng`s response to the request for “safe spaces,” (which I suspect are defined on an ad hoc manner by the most “sensitive” student with the loudest wail on any given day,) an oxymoronic concept at a university, institutions which should encourage, not denigrate debate, makes the most sense. As Cheng indicates, discourse, debate, dialogue and academic inquiry would shrivel and die if safe spaces become the norm at our universities. Finally an example of a university President with the courage to lead, not just buy her way out of controversy as President Hart did at the U of A with her wasteful spending on not one but two “diversity” whatever she calls them, demanded by “protesters”. Universities are places to grow through learning about oneself and diverse people through the testing of ideas, not a place to be coddled and “made safe” from real live.

    • Breanna Kramer’s writings are near illiterate and sound threatening. Hope others at NAU have better grammar and content in what they write.

  8. The election of President Trump was called a whitelash. The person who said this was black. Reverend Wright, former President Obama’s pastor, hated America and called for it to be sent into damnation. Hate speech and racism are easy to spot. The so-called left wing looks to be unaware of itself.

  9. I sometimes wonder how “Mankind” (NAU’s own word of the week) ever got out of the caves with these idiots demanding everything be perfect in their existence.
    I’m thinking a healthy dose of “NO” is in order for them.


  10. Well at least we have one University President who understands one of the purposes of a Public education.

  11. The only safe space was in your Mom’s basement. Now get back down there and stop bothering busy people.

    • Great, Betty, but requiring “Mommy’s Basement” is what Ms Cheng is trying to avoid, and I wish her luck.

  12. The immense stupidity of so many of the student body of Constitutional Law & Civil Liberties and their constant whining about micro-aggressions is the main reason for so many of us to enroll and receive degrees at online universities.

  13. Wasn’t it Nikita Khrushchev who said “we shall destroy the U.S. from the inside”?
    Maybe not in his lifetime, but it appears that his words are coming to pass.

  14. I agree with everyone who says that college ought to be a place where people are exposed to thinking that is contrary to their own mindsets, and that creating so-called “safe spaces” where students can hide from views they don’t like is antithetical to that notion.

    Where I part company with other commentors is that liberals and the political left have a monopoly on this attitude. Anyone who lived through the McCarthy period knows that liberals and left wing speakers were simply not allowed to appear on college campuses. During that time people went to jail for having left wing beliefs though they never engaged in any actions opposed to our country’s political or economic system.

    • Well well someone being honest and comparing liberal ideas with what was really being rooted out, that being Communism. Uncle Joe Stalin would be proud of how communism has permeated the USA.

    • Rich,

      Thank you for the reminder of our history. I saw a video by Carl Reiner the other day called, “But Seriously.” I recommend it. It shows the discord of the Sixties and Seventies and some great footage of not yet famous comedians. We forget, and the young people have never experienced, those times.

      I am not afraid. Not of Donald Trump nor Barack Obama nor George W. Bush.
      Nor Abraham Lincoln nor Woodrow Wilson.

      We are not a nation of kings. We will not (ultimately) allow truth to be suborned. To fear and obstruct inconvenient information is what kings do.
      It’s what dictators do.

      I don’t have any idea who is reading this. But I have faith in you. You are probably not that much dumber than I am. We won’t let things get too crazy, will we?

      And to all you reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic, non-organic eating, lactose intolerant, fascist, knuckle-dragging, science denying, Christian, Muslim, Hindu fanatics—all I can say is, Jeeze, can we just take a time-out? I’m tired.”

  15. Awwww Poor lil liberals can’t handle the fact that there are other opinions other than those they agree with and can’t handle the fact that someone thinks differently than they do. What are they going to do when they get out into the real world and there are NO safe spaces and they have to deal with others? I guess therapy is in the cards for them

    • Spouse stopped giving NAU money last year. Very sad, but we don’t identify with what the university has become. How many other alumni will stop donating?

  16. Refer to my response yesterday to Az Leaders and Educators are failing Studentkind.

    Kudos to NAU President for standing up under this pressure and taking a common sense position to yet another Alt Left snowflake demand.

    I did not send my kids to one of these elitist schools that churn out graduates who can’t handle the real world. You want a safe place? Then go home to mommy and daddy.

  17. Poor, poor little snowflakes. Demanding safe spaces. Well snowflakes, if you don’t like NAU, then go someplace else where you will be coddled and loved and won’t get any life skills that college is supposed to give you. Prepare for life? Hardly, you are preparing to go back to mom’s basement and live your life in fear and loathing of the rest of society that thinks you are worthless and by all estimations, you generation pretty much is.

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