After the University of Chicago published a letter saying it would not be giving in to campus crybullies and creating "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings," a couple other college presidents rushed to tell students they would provide such protections.
U Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison wrote incoming freshman that his school would not use "trigger warnings" to allow students to hide from readings that may offend their sensibilities, would not cancel speakers just because some students disagree with what they say, and would not allow the creating of safe spaces that allow students to "retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."
He wrote that UC students were expected to learn and be challenged, and engage in debate and discussion, even if it means disagreement. He said such challenges may even "cause discomfort."
This was a laudable step, as colleges and universities across the country have increasingly allowed sensitive students to rule their campuses like bratty tyrants, labeling anything they disagree with as "hate speech."
Enter Barry Glassner and Morton Schapiro, presidents of Lewis & Clark College and Northwestern University, respectively. While Ellison at UC took a stand for preparing students for the real world, Glassner and Schapiro invited whining and complaining students to take control of their schools' intellectual lives.
They said they wished students would find other means to make their voices heard, but that protests like the one at the University of Missouri (which embarrassed the school so much it saw a massive drop in admissions) were necessary and welcome.
"As college presidents ourselves, of course it is our preference that students collaborate with faculty and administrators rather than occupy offices, shut themselves off from fellow students with whom they disagree, or leave school," the two wrote in the LA Times. "But we recognize and accept that these students are coming of age in a time of political, social and economic turbulence unseen in a generation."
Still, the two accused those who write about campus crybullies of "opin[ing] from gated communities and segregated offices about campus incidents that, for all their notoriety, are utterly unrepresentative of the main points of tension on campuses." (Note that the University of Chicago, located on that city's South Side, does not exactly fit this description.)
"For every student who complained about inauthentic ethnic food in the cafeteria, to cite one well-publicized example, exponentially more Asian and Asian American students endured insults and snubs based on jealousy, stereotypes or outright hatred," the two wrote. "Likewise, for every example of students demanding safe places or trigger warnings so as to avoid material they consider offensive or upsetting, innumerable LGBT students and students of color found themselves in situations where they were affronted or physically threatened."
From this, you'd get the impression that America's colleges and universities are among the most racist environments in America. In fact, what you get in academia today are mostly trumped up charges of "microaggressions" — finding offense in someone's inoffensive words, usually to cast oneself as a victim and to get attention.
At one school I visited, students claiming they were oppressed very nearly suggested anti-Semitism was okay. We asked whether schools should be able to deny a member of the KKK from speaking on campus, and the students immediately said "yes." Then we asked if an anti-Semite should be allowed to speak on campus, and the students paused, looked at each other and took a few minutes before timidly saying "probably not."
But the message should be clear, especially to parents: If you want your children to grow as responsible adults and learn to bolster their own arguments by confronting other opinions and ideas, send them to a school that denies "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings." If you want your child to remain in a bubble of victimhood, unable to hear or accept other viewpoints, send them to a school that encourages such things.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.