Safe Space? An Ethics in Action Case Example
Embargo Lift Date
As part of a conference devoted to exploring ethics in global health volunteer experiences hosted by your university, student leaders representing several health professions schools and pre-professional programs host a lunch conversation with the conference’s keynote speaker. The session is designed to support open discussion of:
• personal or peer experiences of clinical and/or pre-professional global health volunteer trips,
• stated and perceived motivations and gains from participation and,
• Positionality of student leaders within student-led programs, including their sense of comfort/discomfort with specific elements of their program experience and the responsibilities they shoulder within and across programs.
• Resources they’d like to have in order to increase their sense of efficacy when they are confronted with challenging situations.
The student groups organizing this session have agreed to allow you, and a couple of other faculty/staff involved in the conference, to sit-in on this session to gain a more robust understanding of student leaders’ experiences and perspectives. The lead groups organizing the discussion are directly connected to and supported by your office.
At the onset of the meeting, the keynote speaker and students state that students don’t need to worry about their frankness of their comments…it is a safe space. While most of the participating students are from university-recognized student-led volunteer and service-learning programs, the buzz about this event has been circulating through student peer networks. As a result, it happens that a 2nd year medical student, we’ll call her Josie, has come to the event in the hope of recruiting additional students for an upcoming trip a group of fellow students are organizing to Nicaragua the following month to offer care in a temporary “clinic.” This trip has been taking place for a few years. The more Josie shares about the experience, the more you realize it is not an approved international experience at your school. In addition, there are several dimensions of the experience that expose the students to risk.
As a paid employee of the university, you have a responsibility to share the possible implications with the student of operating without approval and uphold university policy, and yet you also understand the need to honor the safe space agreement everyone entered into for this discussion.