Wagner paid the usual lip service to free speech—only, as usual, to qualify it with “safe spaces” jargon: “As an academic community, we must value and encourage the expression of ideas, vigorous debate, speech, dissent and protest. At the same time, our commitment to respect, civility, and inclusion calls us to provide a safe environment that inspires and supports courageous inquiry.” Why does “courageous inquiry” require a “safe environment”? If inquiry is “courageous,” presumably it can withstand the pampered, hothouse climate of a college campus.
Any college president who adopts the rhetoric of “safe spaces” is already lost. Such rhetoric implies that there is somewhere on his campus that is not “safe”—a complete fiction. Wagner is an engineer by training, reconfirming that a science background, with its grounding in the empirical method, is of no use whatsoever in inoculating a college president against cowardice when facing student neurasthenia.
Wagner wrapped up his campus-wide message with another echo from Yale: a fawning paean to the protesters for teaching him so much. “I learn from every conversation like the one that took place yesterday and know that further conversations are necessary,” Wagner wrote, recalling Yale president Peter Salovey’s even more revolting love letter to the student harpies who had so violated the norms of civility by screaming and cursing at their college master.