By Strawberry Strawpoll, S&M Editor
On April 1, the St. Louis University of Missouri, in collaboration with the St. Louis Science Center, unveiled two new state-of-the-art resources that will be available to students upon their return from spring recess. The new resources are being billed as “Unsafe Spaces,” and have been built in an effort to broaden the range of on-campus experiences available to students at SLUM.
“There’s this idea that college is a really safe, cloistered kind of place where everyone just sort of studies and walks around introspectively with their hands clasped behind their backs,” said Chancellor George Tom at the unveiling of the new north campus Unsafe Space, located in MSC 312. “But that’s not how college should be at all. There’s a whole subset of life experiences that just doesn’t fit neatly into our traditional Western ideas of safety and comfort… A random beating, dysentery, a concussion sustained after a nasty tumble down a rickety, old set of stairs—these are all valuable experiences that our students are by and large missing out on at SLUM.”
It is this lack of experiential diversity that SLUM seeks to rectify with the installation of the new facilities. The north campus Unsafe Space features a variety of high-risk situations that students are invited to engage in, with a special emphasis in urban and mechanical perils.
“As students in America, we have this inborn prejudice against danger and dangerous situations. We just like, really hate them for some reason—probably because we live these ultra-sheltered lives here on campus where nothing bad ever happens really, except maybe a goose hisses at you or something. So we get this idea in our heads that dangerous stuff is like, bad—you know?” said Tiffany Dolor, freshman, turfgrass science, as she waited in line for the Unsafe Space’s William Tell game. “But dangerous stuff isn’t inherently bad—it’s just our society that views it that way,” Dolor explained as she stepped up to position an apple atop her head. “Western culture is just aversive to anything that it’s unfamiliar with. Danger isn’t dangerous, it’s just unfamiliar.” (Dolor was later transported to Barnes-Jewish hospital and treated for cranial trauma. She is in serious but stable condition.)
Other popular attractions at the north campus Space include a ball pit filled with used hypodermic needles, simulated strong-arm robbery, and an obstacle course featuring open manholes and real flowing, untreated sewage.
The south campus Unsafe Space is located on the south campus grounds next to the community garden. Whereas the north campus Space serves up mostly man-made danger, the south campus Space instead focuses on the hazards of the natural world. Students can take unguided walks through the Space, which is stocked with crocodiles, ossuaries, hippopotami, and other unrestrained exotic creatures. A trebuchet built by the engineering department hurls rocks and other debris into the Space at random, adding another level of danger to the experience.
The main attraction of the south campus Space is the bear-baiting arena, where students can participate in an updated version of a classic Elizabethan divertissement. Paul Orrore, freshman, computer science, described the experience: “You get in there, and there are around three or four bears chained up to the wall. And all you’ve got is your phone and and an old cut of rotten meat. The aim is to get up close enough to the bears to take a selfie with one of them without getting mauled. You have to use the meat to distract them.” Adam Riskall, senior, communications, said, “The bear-baiting is really cool because, if you survive, you have this sweet selfie with a bear that you can then post on Snapchat and IG and stuff. Mine got like 300 likes—so worth it!”
The Unsafe Spaces are free for students and are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday.