The hypersensitivity now pervasive throughout social media is even more intense on college campuses today, and an uncomfortable irony is that the very institutions expected to serve as bastions of free expression have become, with increasing frequency, places where only the most sterile and politically correct ideas may be freely discussed.
One school, however, seems to be saying it has had enough of the silliness, and is pushing back against it.
According to many news outlets, including Time (time.com), the University of Chicago has sent a letter to incoming students that informs them so-called “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” will be given no quarter at the institution. The letter, written by John Ellison, dean of students, says, among other things:
“Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”
“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Fostering the free exchange of ideas reinforces a related University priority—building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds. Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community. The members of our community must have the freedom to espouse and explore a wide range of ideas.”
The restrictions on speech have become so pronounced throughout American college campuses that some instructors are concerned that even topics long taught in the classroom may prove problematic in the current climate. On that note, Time references a piece written a couple of years ago by Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen for The New Yorker (newyorker.com), wherein she talks about the great difficulty in teaching rape law in an environment where “trigger warnings” seem to have become standard.
Many have recently begun to wonder if an evolving sensitivity within the culture has perhaps gone too far. Evidently, one of America’s leading universities thinks the point of “too far” has, indeed, been reached, and has said, “Enough.”
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large