“Life doesn’t only involve the people who think the way you think,” Megyn Kelly told college students toward the end of her interview with Christina Hoff Sommers. Kelly and Sommers discuss the latter’s recent experiences at college campus events, where the mere presence of her fact-based critiques of “rape culture” hysteria are enough to send campus activists into rumpus rooms to protect themselves from the supposed cognitive damage that alternative points of view provide. “In the words of my old trainer,” Kelly concludes out of frustration, “toughen up, buttercup.”
Heather Wilhelm calls all of the obsessing over “trigger warnings” and the campus demands for “safe space” from soft-spoken critics like Sommers the “attack of the leftist snowflakes“:
No, it is not true, as is often repeated, that one in five college women will be the victim of sexual assault. (The number, according to the Department of Justice, is more like 6 in 1,000.) No, the male-to-female “wage gap” is not solely based on insidious gender discrimination, helmed by an evil network of sexy Don Draper look-alikes. (Many women choose lower-paying jobs, for instance, or take more time off to have children. If you wanted to blame a man for this, I suppose, you could blame God. But, come on, silly: GOD IS NOT A MAN! As many radical feminists and readers of “The Da Vinci Code” know, God is clearly the essence of the “divine feminine.” Oh, wait. Oh, shoot. If that’s true, who’s oppressing whom? Never mind.)
Sommers’ approach, in other words, is straightforward, fact-based, and lucid. But this, as the zealous, easily wounded students at Oberlin College and Georgetown University demonstrated over the past week, simply will not do. Faced with a speaker who thinks outside the box, campus groups lit up in protest. Students taped their mouths shut. Others heckled and jeered Sommers as a “rape apologist.” Still others advertised alternate “safe spaces” for students “traumatized” by a speech.
“The students were so carried away with the idea that I was a threat to their safety,” Sommers told the website Campus Reform, that Oberlin officials “arranged for security guards to escort me to and from the lecture to protect me from the safe spacers.” This sounds sane, if it’s Opposite Day.
Oberlin and Georgetown are not alone. Campus panic over “unsafe” speakers — and the subsequent tendency of universities to chicken out and disinvite guests like Charles Murray, Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — has grown to the extent that an official “Disinvitation Dinner” was launched in New York last week with keynote speaker George Will.
“Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively, and dangerously threatened than it is now,” Will, who’s had his fair share of protests, panics, and bans, told the audience. Today’s attack isn’t just about process, he noted: It’s “an attack on the theory of freedom of speech,” with a belief “that the First Amendment is a mistake.”
Just how bad has the problem become? This past week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announced that George Mason University had finally agreed to dump its speech codes and join a select group of colleges and universities whose policies completely aligned with both free speech and free access to information. Unfortunately, that group is very select. With GMU’s inclusion, FIRE only has 20 campuses that get its highest rating. The majority of schools reviewed by FIRE get its lowest ranking.
Nico Perrino, spokesman for FIRE, shared the numbers from their campus free-speech rating system in an e-mail to me yesterday:
Our last tally of red, yellow, and green schools came in 9/2014. Of the 437 schools reviewed by FIRE, 241 received a red light rating (55.2%), 171 received a yellow light rating (39.1%), and 18 received a green light rating (4.1%). FIRE did not rate seven schools (1.6%). Since last September, a number of these schools had their rating changed, but since we are in the middle of our reporting period, we have not tallied the changes. As you know, we now have 20 green light schools.
These numbers tell us that the business of colleges and universities isn’t education in its classic sense. The experiences at Oberlin, Georgetown, and other universities obsessing over “triggers” and “safe spaces” make it clear that indoctrination and insularity are the goals rather than producing well-rounded intellects capable of dealing with the complexities of life. Maybe it’s time to put our resources elsewhere, as I conclude in my column for The Fiscal Times:
A successful college education replaces ignorance with insight, and insularity with confidence and engagement. With the escalating price and debt loads from tuition becoming a crippling fiscal burden to young adults, delivering on those values becomes more important than ever to their economic survival.
Unfortunately, most of our universities and colleges end up promoting ignorance,insularity, fear, and infantilism. Rather than seek out heterodox opinions, the faculties and student bodies of these schools attempt to insulate themselves from opponents through speech codes, demands for “trigger warnings,” demagoguery and shouting down of alternate views. Instead of education producing open minds, these institutions end up indoctrinating young adults on how best to keep their minds closed, limited to the boundaries of groupthink rather than freed to pursue truth. …
The tantrums thrown by students at Oberlin and Georgetown, and the endorsement of speech restraints and indoctrination by school administrators, remain the rule rather than the exception. That prompts the question: what value are these students actually gaining for their mortgaging of their financial futures?
Better yet, considering that student loans primarily get backed by taxpayers, what outcomes will we see from this investment in social and monetary capital? We are creating a generation of “delicate little injured birds” whose only developed skill involves curling up into a ball at the first sign of adverse experience. Perhaps we should invest in trade school education instead.
At least that would toughen the little buttercups up.
For the last word, let’s have Christina Hoff Sommers herself explain why feminists should reject “trigger warnings” as infantilizing, and just downright “embarrassing”:
Update: The snowflakes are not into safety for all, apparently, even if this is a typically passive-aggressive kind of tactic.