More Dangerous Thoughts on University Safe Zones

You thought that war was hell; that wading through mud in the trenches for months on end, and then going over the top into the teeth of enemy fire was the worst sort of physical and psychological torture a human being could endure.  Think again.

Campus “safe zones” can now hardly cope, apparently, with a burgeoning epidemic of academic PTSD:  the self-identified non-binary-gendered students permanently scarred by Jordan Peterson’s refusal to address them by their chosen pronoun (assuming they haven’t had Peterson fired yet); the young feminist casualties limping back from a guest lecture by Anne Coulter or Camille Paglia (assuming it hasn’t been cancelled or shouted down); innocent passersby exposed to the “horrific” displays of the campus Pro-Life Club (assuming that the campus Pro-Life Club hasn’t been de-certified); Hillary acolytes in shock and suicidal despair over the election of the fascist Donald (assuming the election results haven’t been overturned); literature majors specializing in Women’s Studies or Queer Theory who need occupational therapy after reading the soul-destroying misogynist words of Hamlet, “Frailty, thy name is woman”, or learning that Dante consigned sodomites to one of the lower circles of hell (assuming that these works haven’t yet been burned as hate literature).

 

To heal the emotional wounds of students who have undergone such ordeals, the administrators at Yale, Brown, and several other Ivy League colleges have furnished their safe zones with psychotherapeutic support staff, play dough, comic books, teddy bears, and security blankets.  Why not pacifiers?, you might ask.  A college education is surely now the most expensive form of infant day care ever offered.

And to complete the infantilization of the academic mind, college administrators have also instituted “trigger warnings”.  Trigger warnings are a little like the content advisory notices that precede violent or sexually explicit prime-time TV shows, so that parents can hustle their kids off to bed.  On campus, they are issued in advance of course texts or subjects that might “trigger” feelings of discomfort, vulnerability, or anger, so that students can hustle themselves off to a safe zone.  At one California university, in a class on the history of economics, a trigger warning is attached to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, whose “invisible hand and ethos of cut-throat competition may be disturbing to our students who have been taught to value co-operation and compassion for the weak, oppressed, the marginalized, and the other”.   In a “sociology of religion” course at a Massachusetts college, the verse from Genesis, “God created man in his own image…male and female created he them” is flagged with the (internally contradictory) disclaimer:  “Students who regard God as Female, as well as those of non-binary gender, might find this text deeply offensive.  They may be assured that, in the ensuing discussion, the crimes of patriarchy and heterosexual hegemonism will be addressed.”  Given the emotional fragility of today’s students, I’m not sure that the word “trigger” should even be mentioned in their presence.

Of course, it’s an open secret on campus that safe zones and trigger warnings have hardly been provided for the protection of “vulnerable” and “marginalized” minorities, so much as for the intimidation of the rest of the officially non-protected student population, who do not at the moment enjoy the privileges of victimhood.  The latter understand from them that any offense to the ideological sensibilities of the “vulnerable and marginalized”, any dissent, that is, from progressive orthodoxy or the canonical historical narrative of white European Christian patriarchal oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc., is not to be tolerated in the classroom.

 

You may be surprised to hear that I am a great supporter of the idea of safe zones…for conservatives.  For liberals, the university is already a gigantic safe zone, an impregnable fortress of progressive ideological conformity.  In a recent survey, it was revealed that there are on average 22 registered Democrats on the faculties of American campuses for every 1 registered Republican (on Ivy Leagues campuses, the number is 150 to 1).  That means that in the recent election, Hillary got a slightly higher percentage of the professorial vote than North Korea’s Dear Leader can typically count on from his adoring electorate.  The chances, therefore, that a left-leaning university student might be ambushed by a non-conforming conservative idea in one of his classes are thus roughly equivalent to the chances of his reefer being lit by lightning, or his running into one of the members of the American Nazi Party who are supposed to be prowling the streets of post-Trumpian AmeriKKKa.

So, here’s a radical new idea.  Keep the safe zones but re-assign them for conservatives.   Have a little compassion for those gap-toothed rubes from fly-over country who are told in class every day that the white race is the cancer on the body politic (racism, anyone?); spare a teddy bear for the males whose gender is diabolized as a miasmal swamp of rapine and oppression (sexism, anyone?); throw a security blanket over a lonely Christian whose religion is regularly abominated as bigoted and intellectually benighted (intolerance, anyone?)

On second thought, keep the teddy bears.   Just lay in a few back copies of World Armaments Monthly, and a liberal supply of Bourbon.

One thought on “More Dangerous Thoughts on University Safe Zones

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