First Amendment

University of Missouri, Yale student protests: Are 'safe spaces' to blame?

Critics accuse campus protesters of attacking free speech

 

Late last spring, college students at top schools across the country were busy furnishing rooms on campus with coloring books, Play-Doh, bubbles, and other items that you might find in a toddler’s toy chest. But they weren’t stocking these rooms with toys for children—they were doing it for themselves.

These students were creating so-called “safe spaces” to provide their peers shelter from words and ideas they don’t like. For instance, when a feminist dissident spoke at Brown last year, 35 students gathered in another room filled with calming music, cookies, and pillows to take refuge from her words. 

Before Christina Hoff Sommers, a widely-respected conservative feminist, spoke at Georgetown University in April, students posted a sign outside another designated “safe space” that read, “All are welcome to come if they feel triggered or upset by today’s events.”

And now, students at Mizzou, Yale, and colleges nationwide are staging mass protests, demanding their “safe spaces” be respected.

These students’ “safe spaces” are, in fact, the most dangerous places many of them will ever enter. These are spaces where their radical ideas about our country will go unchallenged, they will wax poetic about privilege and intersectionality and critical theory in cozy circles of self-affirmation, and they will never learn to cope with the unique challenge of defending their beliefs from sound arguments.

Those who follow campus issues have been watching this trend simmer for years; it was destined to come to a boil.

But from what are students really asking to be protected?

New ideas, different opinions, and anything to the right of Chomsky.

Liberals pride themselves on being intellectuals. In fact, that pride has been the source of condescension and mockery towards the rest of the country for decades.

But can there be anything more anti-intellectual than demanding protection from differing opinions?

These students’ “safe spaces” are, in fact, the most dangerous places many of them will ever enter. These are spaces where their radical ideas about our country will go unchallenged, they will wax poetic about privilege and intersectionality and critical theory in cozy circles of self-affirmation, and they will never learn to cope with the unique challenge of defending their beliefs from sound arguments.

Like a flu shot, exposure to disagreement bolsters your ideological immune system. Leftists only weaken their own cause when liberal professors and administrators continue to urge and encourage their students to isolate themselves in impenetrable bubbles of intellectual safety, they will be weaker than ever..

A new poll commissioned by Young America’s Foundation found that more than 60 percent of college students believe political correctness on their campuses makes it difficult to talk openly about a variety of critical issues. Today’s colleges and universities are doing a complete disservice to students by discouraging free and open debate and dialogue on important issues and ideas.

The result of liberal administrators stifling free speech and coddling campus leftists? Escalating tension between the vocal minority and the reasonable majority, as we have seen in recent days at Mizzou and Yale.

Ironically, this progressive minority’s demands are making our nation’s campuses less safe than they have been in years.

Our students are in danger of spending four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on absolutely nothing. 

Emily Jashinsky is Program Officer for Public Relations at Young America’s
Foundation. She is a 2015 graduate of The George Washington University where
she studied political science and creative writing. Her work has been published
by a variety of think tanks and national media outlets, including the American
Enterprise Institute and Campus Reform.

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