We may be seeing the beginnings of a full-blown campus revolution. Not a revolution based on actual oppression, but a revolution stemming from perceived oppression and a desire to attain victimhood status…
College students today, upon learning about systemic oppression of the past, are looking for a way to create their own movement, to belong to something bigger than themselves so that they can look back someday and say they were a part of something. The problem for them is, the sexual and racial discrimination of the ’50s and ’60s no longer exists, so they have to invent or exaggerate claims in order to make it seem as if problems are widespread.
What was evident at the University of Missouri, and in last weekend’s confrontation over free speech at Yale, is that political dialogue on universities is disintegrating to the level of 1968, when many schools became places of physical and intellectual chaos.
Missing today, as then, is adult leadership. Too often university presidents, their boards of trustees and leading political figures default, and quickly, to the most reactionary progressives in modern student bodies. We want to be clear about this, because so many of these university leaders regard themselves as principled liberals. But their timidity is putting at risk the classical liberal values that are the essence of the idea of a university…
The politicians will walk away. The forces that have been dividing campuses like Missouri’s for years and eroding them as serious centers of learning will stay. That most people staring at what happened at the University of Missouri feel a sense of loss is no accident. Expect more of it.
There is no evidence that the University of Missouri denies equal opportunity to its black students; those black students, like every other student on campus, are surrounded by lavish educational resources, available to them for the asking on a color-blind basis. The university’s faculty and administrators are surely among the most prejudice-free, well-meaning group of adults in human history. Thousands of Chinese students would undoubtedly do anything for the chance to be “systemically oppressed” by the University of Missouri’s stupendous laboratories and research funding…
Even without the sports boycott tool, however, the takeover of the college campus by racial hysteria appears all but complete. A video of a black female student at Yale screaming and cursing at her college master is a chilling portrait of self-engrossed, bathos-filled entitlement that has never been corrected by truth, much less restrained by manners: “Be quiet!” she shrieks at the frozen administrator, “Why the fuck did you accept the [master] position,” she continues at full, self-righteous cry. (The student’s tirade was occasioned by a statement issued by the master’s wife disagreeing with Yale’s admonition to students not to wear “culturally appropriative” Halloween costumes.) If anyone has reprimanded the student for her grotesque lack of courtesy, Yale is not letting on. Instead, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, issued the usual fawning declaration of sorrow for the tribulations experienced by Yale’s privileged minority students: “Their concerns and cries for help made clear that some students find life on our campus profoundly difficult.”
This shocking video is a glimpse of the future—the boorish, hate-filled Cultural Revolution come to America. Colleges have capitulated completely to delusional victimology; unless employers are willing to stand up against the coddled products of the academic hothouse, we may all soon be living in a world of screaming, monomaniacal victims.
We’ve also seen Wesleyan students debate cutting funding for the student newspaper after it ran an op-ed criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. At Mount Holyoke, students canceled a production of “The Vagina Monologues” because they felt it excluded transgender women. Protests led to the withdrawal of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker at Rutgers and Christine Lagarde at Smith.
This is sensitivity but also intolerance, and it is disproportionately an instinct on the left.
I’m a pro-choice liberal who has been invited to infect evangelical Christian universities with progressive thoughts, and to address Catholic universities where I’ve praised condoms and birth control programs. I’m sure I discomfited many students on these conservative campuses, but it’s a tribute to them that they were willing to be challenged. In the same spirit, liberal universities should seek out pro-life social conservatives to speak.
More broadly, academia — especially the social sciences — undermines itself by a tilt to the left. We should cherish all kinds of diversity, including the presence of conservatives to infuriate us liberals and make us uncomfortable. Education is about stretching muscles, and that’s painful in the gym and in the lecture hall.
In the video of Tim Tai trying to carry out his ESPN assignment, I see the most vivid example yet of activists twisting the concept of “safe space” in a most confounding way. They have one lone student surrounded. They’re forcibly preventing him from exercising a civil right. At various points, they intimidate him. Ultimately, they physically push him. But all the while, they are operating on the premise, or carrying on the pretense, that he is making them unsafe.
It is as if they’ve weaponized the concept of “safe spaces.”
There are two remarkable and dangerous things about the notion of safe spaces imagined by Yale students.
The first is the location of that space. It’s not a self-selected community or an exercise of freedom of association, because it lacks the element of voluntary entry. It’s the safe space of an occupier: students demand that everyone in the dorm, or college, or university conform to their private-club rules. Your right to swing your fist may end at my nose, but their asserted right to safety surrounds you.
The second remarkable thing is the definition of safety. For the moment, let’s accept for the sake of argument that some speech can make people genuinely unsafe. Imagine, perhaps, speech advocating for the physical abuse of minorities or urging vulnerable people to commit suicide. But the Yale incident demonstrates that this core concept, once accepted, can be expanded to cover anything. The argument seems to be that because we can imagine truly threatening speech, we must therefore accept uncritically other people’s subjective beliefs about what speech is threatening. The speech at issue here was an email acknowledging that ethic Halloween costumes could be hurtful but discussing whether it should be the role of a university to tell students whether to wear them. This is safety as Ouroboros — it is unsafe to question what is unsafe, unsafe to discuss the concept of safety.
Because there are no established ideological parameters on a college campus — because, that is, the “spaces” there have no clear walls — there are no objective means by which we might judge what is “safe” to say and what is not. If, as one student at Yale put it recently, “offense” is simply what “hurts,” then everybody has a heckler’s veto simply by virtue of their capacity to feel. On this rationale, the Christian upset by the visit of a pro-choice speaker could just as easily claim to be “unsafe” as could the feminist vexed by the arrival of Rick Santorum. On this rationale, no college president in the country can be secure in his position, liable as he is to be accused on a moment’s notice of having fostered an “unsafe” environment for his students. On this rationale, there is not a single topic of debate that his immune from the dissenter’s howl. Up goes the hand; out comes the word; down comes the curtain.
Americans have long drawn a clear distinction between speech and violence, the general understanding in this country being that abstract expression may only be regulated when it is extremely likely that it will lead to imminent criminal behavior. The suggestion that one man’s political opinions can meaningfully impinge upon another’s “safety” all-but explodes that distinction, thereby conflating intrinsically intellectual concepts such as “upset,” “discomfort, “hurt,” and “irritation” with intrinsically physical concepts such as “violence,” “security,” and “sanctuary.” In the immediate term, it may be tempting to merely chuckle at those indulging in this conflation: There is, I think, only one reasonable response to a person who believes that your hypotheses are threatening his physical wellbeing, and that is to laugh in his face until all of the air has left your lungs. In the long term, though, the trend is a dangerous one, for while the kids running around the quadrangles of Yale and Wesleyan may be incorrigibly silly, the ancient ideas upon which they are resting that silliness are once again gaining ground, and, as history teaches us over and over again, there are no more dangerous or unsafe spaces than those in which the censors and the mobs are permitted to roam with impunity.
Notice also that all this claptrap about “safe spaces” is a dodge. The protesters are so concerned about “safe spaces” that they formed into an angry mob to surround a lone individual and shout obscenities at him. Where is the safe space for the Christakises?
Obviously, this isn’t about safety and comfort at all. It’s about raw power. It’s about whose demands will get met whenever they make them—and who will be sacrificed to those demands.
The most prescient thing said about this kind of student protest culture was an observation made by Ayn Rand back during the first go-around, in the 1960s. The purpose of all the marches and sit-ins and riots, she wrote, was to condition students to accept mob rule. Here we are fifty years later, and this is quickly becoming the openly declared purpose of universities…
The universities have done this to themselves. They created the whole phenomenon of modern identity politics and Politically Correct rules to limit speech. They have fostered a totalitarian microculture in which conformity to those rules is considered natural and expected. Now that system is starting to eat them alive, from elite universities like Yale, all the way down to, er, less-than-elite ones like Mizzou.
[R]adical politics has, for 20 years or more, largely been about banning ‘harmful’ things. Whether it’s leftists demanding the shutting down of neo-fascist bookshops, feminists calling for bans on porn or Page 3, or gay-rights groups agitating for the censorship of homophobic black music, being radical has weirdly come to mean smashing or hiding offensive material. But the idea that a pornographic movie turns men into rapists – a staple of New Feminist thinking – is equally as mad as the notion that a critical email about Halloween could ‘harm’ students. In both cases, mere images or ideas, a film of some sex or a stream of words, are imbued with the extraordinary power to warp minds and souls, to alter atoms, as if people are putty and imagery is all-powerful. And yet some of the same people who think nothing of trying to extinguish porn now look in horror at the Yale snowflakes who want protection from words.
Closely related to this institutionalisation of censorship has been the relentless rise of the therapeutic outlook. This new view of humanity eschews the old John Stuart Mill attitude – which celebrated self-government, the ‘firmness and self-control’ of the individual – and replaces it with a view of individuals as weak, threatened, easily damaged by horrible happenings, cutting words: ‘scarred for life’. On campuses in Britain and the US, this autonomy-slamming outlook could be seen in the spread of wellbeing classes, an obsession with student stress, the introduction of ‘therapy dogs’ (seriously), and various other measures designed to stroke allegedly fragile students’ sense of self-worth rather than let them negotiate life’s ups and downs for themselves. If they think of themselves as weak, so weak they cannot read an email, that really isn’t surprising: we have been telling them they’re weak for 20 years.
The Yale snowflakes are pathetic, yes. But what’s even more pathetic is the ridicule of the snowflakes by the very generation who created this world in which words are seen as wounding, judgement is considered harmful, and everyone is treated as fragile. Having claimed for 30 years that offensive discussion, or porn or racist newspapers, create a ‘hostile environment’, can the older generation really be surprised that students are now setting up Safe Spaces? The Safe Space is the logical solution to the notion that words and images cultivate a ‘hostile environment’.
In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argued that too many college students engage in “catastrophizing,” which is to say, turning common events into nightmarish trials or claiming that easily bearable events are too awful to bear. After citing examples, they concluded, “smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.”…
It ought to be disputed rather than indulged for the sake of these students, who need someone to teach them how empowered they are by virtue of their mere enrollment; that no one is capable of invalidating their existence, full stop; that their worth is inherent, not contingent; that everyone is offended by things around them; that they are capable of tremendous resilience; and that most possess it now despite the disempowering ideology foisted on them by well-intentioned, wrongheaded ideologues encouraging them to imagine that they are not privileged.
Here’s one of the ways that white men at Yale are most privileged of all: When a white male student at an elite college says that he feels disempowered, the first impulse of the campus left is to show him the extent of his power and privilege. When any other students say they feel disempowered, the campus left’s impulse is to validate their statements. This does a huge disservice to everyone except white male students. It’s baffling that so few campus activists seem to realize this drawback of emphasizing victim status even if college administrators sometimes treat it as currency.
At the root of this is the total dominance of Reset Culture.
No, this isn’t the fault of video games. But the general lesson of the reset button is that as soon as things get difficult, you can choose to shoulder through if you want, but you don’t have to. You can hit reset, load your last save, ragequit, or whatever – typically without consequence.
You hit a button, and adversity disappears – a clean slate, on-demand. And that’s essentially what these students are demanding – a button that lets them wipe away anything that violates their headspace with ideas and concepts they deem threatening.
Coaches across a wide variety of youth sports use a similar argument to explain the downfall of participation we’ve seen in recent years. An inability to deal with adversity, to get through it, to learn from it, and to profit and grow in the wake of it is a tendency that is far too widespread in this generation and is too often inculcated by parents, educational institutions, and society as a whole.
What has changed are the students. Yes, there has been a lot of ideological indoctrination in which kids are taught that taking offense gives them power. But, again, that idea is old. What’s new is the way kids are being raised…
Free play — tag in the schoolyard, pickup basketball at the park, etc. — is a very complicated thing. It requires young people to negotiate rules among themselves, without the benefit of some third-party authority figure. These skills are hugely important in life. When parents or teachers short-circuit that process by constantly intervening to stop bullying or just to make sure that everyone plays nice, Horwitz argues, “we are taking away a key piece of what makes it possible for free people to be peaceful, cooperative people by devising bottom-up solutions to a variety of conflicts.”
The rise in “helicopter parenting” and the epidemic of “everyone gets a trophy” education are another facet of the same problem. We’re raising millions of kids to be smart and kind, but also fragile.
And what happens when large numbers of these delicate little flowers are set free to navigate their way through life? They feel unsafe and demand “safe spaces.” They feel threatened by uncomfortable ideas and demand “trigger warnings.” They might even want written rules or contracts to help them negotiate sexual relations.
Of course, these idiot children aren’t children. These are young adults who can serve in the military, get married, buy firearms, drink alcohol, etc. They are at the beginning years of adult life, but they are entirely unprepared for adult life. It’s fashionable to blame Yale and other elite institutions for this sorry state of affairs, but, while the colleges certainly do their share of damage, the truth is that these children are maladjusted buffoons when they show up in New Haven. Yale doesn’t make them into hysterical ninnies — their families do.
There is a certain strain of upper-middle-class American culture that cultivates an excess of self-importance that grows cancerous when it isn’t counteracted by a deep understanding that the world is full of things that are much more important than you are: God, country, the rest of the human race. That American striver culture has many invaluable aspects — it is the culture that produces the high-achieving students who go to Yale and other elite institutions — but in the absence of transcendent values it turns everybody into a miniature Donald Trump. If your concerns in life are limited to personal economic advancement and status whoring, then everything — literally — is about you. That’s when you see things like Lena Dunham’s dopey political advertisements, which reduce citizenship to another shallow channel of self-satisfaction: Never mind patriotism, never mind history, never mind anything else — what does your vote say about you? How do it make you feel?…
We’re all real sorry about your safe spaces and your pacifier and your stuffed puppy, Caitlyn. Really we are. Yet the perpetual revolution of configured stars continues in its indifference, and the lot of man is ceaseless labor, and though you may find the thought terrifying — and thinking itself terrifying — it may turn out to be the case that the screaming in the dark you do on campus is more or less the same screaming in the dark you did in the crib, the same howl for the same reason.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about these students’ censorious actions is how profoundly conservative they are. By communicating an expectation that their master or president protect them from unsightly Halloween costumes, or promise them no more hurtful words will be said at their expense, students are essentially calling for a return to campus life under in loco parentis. They reject not merely a free and open campus dialogue, but adulthood itself…
It’s clear that many of today’s students—at Yale, Missouri, and other campuses—don’t value free expression the way their radical predecessors did. But the Yale and Missouri incidents reveal something even more startling: they don’t value their own independence, either. Their goal is to re-enshrine in loco parentis. They want their administrators-in-chief to hold them while they cry, pat them on the back, and softly whisper into their ears, “you’re right, I’m so sorry.”
Will these same students, complain, I wonder, if their administrators start sending troublemakers to bed without supper, or preventing them from hanging out with their friends until they finish their homework? Keep in mind that prior to the ‘60s, administrators placed broad restrictions on students’ rights to socialize, organize, and speak. That’s what parents do, it’s what used to take place on college campuses, and it’s what awaits these students who are suddenly so desperate to be treated like children again.
[I]t is difficult to ignore how creeping illiberalism has infected our discourse, and how not many people seem to care.
The thousands of other University of Missouri students, for example, could have held a counter-protest against dimwitted fascists cloistered in safe spaces. Where are those student groups? Why was there no pushback from those kids — and really there was none as far as I can tell, either at Missouri or Yale — against the bullies who want administrators fired for thought crimes? It can mean that students are either too intimidated, too uninterested, or not very idealistic about these freedoms. None of those things bode well for the future.
And where is the faculty, those brave souls who value the freedom to debate and champion sometimes-controversial ideas when mobs of student are making wild accusations against their school without any real evidence? Where are they when students shut down conservative, libertarian, or not-progressive-enough Democrats from speaking at their schools?…
It’s not just the snowflakes — your future neighbors, who will soon be joining the workforce as journalists, congressional aides, and various other marginally useful jobs — who are busy rationalizing the chilling of speech. (There are still many liberals, genuine liberals, dismayed by the behavior of these students and prevailing PC culture that has transformed from something laughable to something deeply concerning.) But there are plenty of pundits, academics, and politicians who offer excuses or justify these assaults on free expression. They did it after Charlie Hebdo. They do it now.
Chicago buried nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee on Tuesday. Police allege gang members lured the boy into an alley and executed him in a revenge killing aimed at his father…
The execution of an innocent black boy draws the attention of a handful of local dignitaries while the death of a black teenager foolish enough to wrestle a cop for control of a gun helps foment unrest on a nearby college campus seven months after then-attorney general Eric Holder destroyed the fallacy of “Hands Up Don’t Shoot.”
Lies stacked on top of lies create the bullshit we’re witnessing in Columbia, Missouri. Clever faculty members, in my opinion, baited a small group of misguided black students into stirring a racial shitstorm strong enough to attract Twitter-addicted journalists looking for their next relevancy hit off the Black Lives Matter crack pipe…
Concerned Student 1950 needs to ask Mizzou’s liberal academics to carry them to Tyshawn Lee’s neighborhood and create a safe space there. Seriously. Assimilated, spoiled black kids showing up on modern college campuses and pretending they’re standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 is f—ing embarrassing.