As radical Islamic terrorists were slaughtering more than 120 innocent people in Paris earlier this month, thousands of American college students were complaining about being “uncomfortable” on campus. These poor babies were whining about bad words and real and imagined slights, and asking college administrators to create “safe zones” for them.
As I understand it, a safe zone is a place where no one ever does or says anything that could possibly offend anyone, or make them feel uncomfortable. I have a question: Is there such a place in the real world where the rest of us live? The real world is a frequently violent, politically incorrect place where some folks feel afraid and/or uncomfortable most of the time — like the good citizens of Paris. The current wave of American campus turmoil first erupted at the University of Missouri, where some minority professors and African-American football players protested against alleged “institutional racism.” As liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explained, “Minority or marginalized students and faculty members are often left feeling as outsiders in ways that damage everyone’s education. ... The problem is not just racists ... but also administrators who acquiesce” in institutional racism. Instead of defending themselves, the university’s gutless president and chancellor resigned.
It should be noted one of the uprising’s student leaders, who has been “studying” at Mizzou for 7 or 8 years, is the son of an African-American railroad executive who makes more than $8 million per year. And by the way, only eight percent of Missouri’s student body is black.
The Missouri protests soon spread to other college campuses around the country including to elite institutions like Yale and Johns Hopkins, where parents spend more than $50,000 per year on tuition and other expenses. Most of the protests had three demands: (1) “free” tuition, (2) free medical care and (3) a $15 per hour minimum wage for university employees. So who pays for free stuff at public universities like Mizzou? You and me, that’s who.
But perhaps worse than these pie-in-the-sky demands are flagrant violations of the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech. At Missouri, which boasts one of the best journalism schools in the country, an assistant journalism professor tried to stop her students from covering the protests. Prof. Melissa Quick, who teaches “mass media” (Huh?), could be heard on a video shouting for someone “to help me get this (student) reporter out of here. I need some muscle over here.” What a wonderful role model for aspiring journalists. Not!
Celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz, a retired Harvard law professor who champions many “progressive” causes, zeroed-in on the First Amendment threat when he wrote “students insist on being protected by campus administrators from ‘micro-aggressions,’ which are unintended statements . . . that demonstrate subtle insensitivities toward minority students. They insist on being safe from hostile or politically incorrect ideas.” So they try to censor those who disagree with them. Problem solved. Right?
Wrong, because one of the main purposes of higher education is to expose students to a wide range of ideas and opinions. As Dershowitz wrote, “Johns Hopkins students simply didn’t want to hear my views on the Israel-Palestine conflict and other issues expressed on their campus because my lecture would make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.” Parents are paying $50,000 a year for this? I hope not.
I’ve spoken to University of Nevada students on several occasions in recent years and have always been well received up there. Too bad some of the elite colleges can’t be as open-minded as UNR.
Guy W. Farmer is a journalism graduate from the University of Washington in Seattle. Go Huskies!
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