by Jack Kerwick
For conservative and moderate students.
College campuses in contemporary America are rough places.
At any rate, it is of this that SJWs (“Social Justice Warriors”), i.e. “progressive” activists, have been assuring the country for quite some time.
“Racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “transphobia,” “ageism,” “ableism,” “classism”—all of the “isms” and “phobias” that the left insists are endemic to Western civilization generally and America specifically have not only infected academia. To judge from the tireless rhetoric of both leftist student activists and their ideological ilk in the professoriate, these secular sins may be even more ensconced in colleges and universities than they are in the larger society.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go!” Nearly 30 years ago, Jesse Jackson led hordes of students at Stanford University with this chant as they succeeded in pressuring the school to jettison required courses in Western civilization. The Western Civilization curriculum, so went the thinking at the time, is ridden with “European and Western male bias,” biases that privilege white men over and against historically “marginalized” groups.
This line of thinking (or unthinking) dominates academia to the present day.
To put it bluntly: Unless one is white, heterosexual, Christian, and deviates from the hegemon of Political Correctness (PC) that rules academia, the current climate on college campuses promises to be oppressive.
This is the version of reality advanced by SJWs. Reality itself, however, is quite otherwise.
In reality, it is true that college campuses have indeed become oppressive. The disinterested pursuit of truth and knowledge; the free marketplace of ideas; the cultivation of intellectual and moral virtues—these goods that have traditionally been the university’s raison d’ etre have largely given way to a new ideal: activism.
More exactly, today’s faculty and students are preoccupied with activism on behalf of Social Justice. And anything or anyone that is perceived as a potential impediment to this end can’t be tolerated. Social Justice by whichever means necessary!
College campuses have become oppressive places—but only for heterodox students and academics. In other words, those who dare to challenge academia’s PC dogmas risk being ostracized, intimidated, and even threatened with violence.
Olivia Corn, a Cornell University student and the president of the school’s Young Republicans, was assaulted the night after Donald J. Trump was elected to the presidency. While speaking to a couple different papers, Corn said: “I was actually assaulted on campus for being a Republican.” She elaborated: “Out of nowhere I was on my phone and looking at my email and out of nowhere I felt two hands grab my shoulders and just sort of threw me to the ground, and they were yelling, ‘F**k you, racist bitch, you support a racist party.”
Before the election, Corn told the school newspaper that she would vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton. Subsequently, she received death threats.
Since she was attacked, she walks with an alarm at all times and refuses to walk alone on campus, especially after dark. This is “not something that I should have to be concerned with,” Corn stated. “I’m a college student, I’m just trying to get good grades, get to law school, keep my head down—besides being the head of an organization.”
At St. Olaf College, Democrat students outnumber Republicans by at least four-to-one. The school paper interviewed 12 students who supported Trump. Nearly all of them confessed to feeling that a toxic campus atmosphere had rendered impossible civil, rational discourse with fellow students and professors over politically-oriented issues.
Emily Schaller, the President of the College Republicans, was threatened by another student on election night and called a “f**king moron.” In the ensuing days, Schaller overheard groups of students talking loudly amongst themselves about “hurt[ing] the next conservative or Republican they saw.”
Kathryn Hinderaker (gee, where are all of the feminists?), the Vice-President of the College Republicans, encountered the same phenomenon. She told her school paper that “one of the hardest things” occurred the day after the presidential election. It was at that time that, upon entering a campus building, she heard someone shout assurances to all Trump voters that they had “better be f**king scared!” To this, all who were present “clapped and applauded.”
“Obviously,” she concludes, “it didn’t feel super safe.”
But it’s not just students who are threatening Republicans and conservatives with violence.
At Cal State Fullerton, lecturer Eric Canin is said to have assaulted a Republican student when the latter and his peers counter-demonstrated against an anti-Trump demonstration led by the professor of cultural anthropology. Allegedly, Canin approached the students, asked if they had any faculty that were marching with them (they did not), and then said that only the “uneducated” would favor immigration restrictions, a wall, a travel ban, etc. He then lunged to grab at one of the counterdemonstrators’ signs and pushed a couple of them.
Canin is presently suspended.
In January, at Georgetown University, several people claiming to belong to a group called “Refuse Fascism” burst into classrooms while classes were in session, distributed flyers, and denounced Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The disrupters were also trespassers, for they were not Georgetown students.
Upon being removed from campus by security, many students admitted to being at once shocked and a bit shaken. One student told the school newspaper: “It is easy to feel like you are living in a secluded bubble on campus, and it is kind of scary that these random people made their way into my class.”
In February, as most people now know, the University of California at Berkeley was engulfed by a full-scale riot courtesy of those of its students and faculty who objected to the presence of a speaker with whom they disagreed. The agents of intolerance attacked property and persons with bricks, fireworks and pepper spray in order to prevent those members of the community who were interested in doing so from hearing an alternative perspective.
While it isn’t the case that all non-leftist college speaking events are accompanied by the dramatic displays of incivility and intolerance that’s rampant at Berkeley, it is anything but uncommon for “conservative” speakers to meet with no small measure of hostility when visiting campuses. That this aggression is considerable is gotten easily enough from the fact that conservative speakers routinely require beefed-up security details.
For example, earlier this month, at Middlebury College, the social scientist, conservative-leaning Charles Murray was shouted down by unruly students and driven to deliver his speech from a secret, undisclosed location. A group of students stood up in the auditorium, turned their backs to Murray, and then spoke over him. One administrator who was present implored the disruptors to be respectful, to listen to and engage those perspectives to which they take exception—but to no avail. Other faculty members who attended the event lifted not a finger to calm the disturbance.
Those who mock the notion of college “safe spaces” are mistaken. Safe spaces are needed.
They are needed, though, for conservative and moderate students who dare to deviate from leftist groupthink.
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