FREQUENTLY ASKED DEFINITIONS & CLARIFICATIONS

What is a counterspace?


Counterspaces are pockets of collective resistance embedded within larger contexts that enable individuals from marginalized groups to engage in collective disruption of the dominant narrative of the larger institution. Counterspaces are designed for individuals from marginalized groups, but they can welcome allies from advantaged groups as long as they adhere to the goal of supporting adaptive responding. Adaptive responding is the constellation of emotional, psychological, and behavioral capacities that enable individuals from marginalized groups to resist oppression and exhibit resilience.

Counterspaces offer individuals from marginalized groups opportunities to gather in critical numbers, validate the truth of their lived experiences, and critique the dominant narrative that emerges from their experiences with the larger institution.




Why “historically” rather than “predominantly” White college and university?


The term historically White recognizes that White cuttural norms and traditions continue to dominate historically White institutions long after the demographic composition of the student body begins to change. For example, addministrators and faculty continue to be predominantly White, the pictures on the walls and names on the buildings continue to be of White individuals, and the syllabus is dominated by books and articles by White authors.




Why is Latinx a racialized ethnicity?


Individuals identified as Latinx (a gender neutral term for individuals of Latin American descent) are often essentialized as having one panethnic culture, that culture is placed low in the American status hierarchy, and thus, Latinx individuls and sub-groups become racialized into one broad non-White group.




How are counterspaces different from safe spaces?


When this project began in 2013, “safe spaces” and “counterspaces” were largely interchangeable terms. However, by 2015, the concept of safe spaces had been co-opted in the public debate and reframed as "discriminatory" spaces that exclude majority individals, and as "infantalizing" spaces that harm the intellectual development of historically marginalized individuals.




What are the psychological costs of college?


Psychological costs include anxiety, stress, depression, self-doubt, and other aspects of well-being. The psychosocial costs of college are greatest for students who need to juggle both school and paid employment, are experiencing financial distress, do not see themselves reflected in the larger student body and faculty, are less integrated into campus life, and experience a cultural gap between their precollege and college contexts. Understanding these and other psychosocial costs is of increasing importance because researchers have established that ability, academic preparation, and financial resources explain only part of the variation in college persistence.





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