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A note to UA's new president: In my day, we didn't have 'safe places'

A kind of zero-option, zero-sum liberalism seemed to permeate the impending UA president's on-campus Q&A. Rather than saying "yes" to everything, I wish Robbins had said “prepare to be unsafe.” He would have done better to remind students that for centuries the most dangerous thing you can provide someone is an education. That's why authoritarians frown on it.... Read more»

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7 comments on this story

Mar 10, 2017, 3:06 pm
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He was probably well informed about the pitfalls of the current university administrative leader…..

Mar 12, 2017, 1:46 pm
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Not to nitpick, but according to Bernard Goldberg (March 5), what Murray wrote was the following:

“It seems highly likely … that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences [in IQ scores]. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate. “

That’s hardly “welfare will fail because the poor are genetically lazy.”

The general tone of Blake’s piece seems rational and open-minded (in the classic sense), yet he slips into the very stereotyping he seems to be complaining about with that line.  So, which side is he on?  Is he a snowflake or a citizen?  But I agree The Resistance probably should have hit Starbucks for another round of soy lattes before they manned the barricades.

Mar 15, 2017, 2:26 pm
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So, I don’t know what a “zero-sum liberal” is, having never heard the term before, but I’ve got some bones to pick with this. Someone once said it was necessary to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. I think that applies, here. The article takes a concept (safe spaces for marginalized communities, “marginalized communities” being the article’s own term) and then redefines it (allowing students to stay in their “comfort zones”). Safe spaces and comfort zones aren’t the same thing. I don’t know anything about the author’s upbringing, but some of this article’s tone reminds me of the kind of assumptions that privilege leads to. There needs to be an acknowledgement that for some “marginalized communities,” there has never been a “comfort zone” or a “safe space.” You can’t take someone “out” of a place they’ve never been.

There’s a tendency to cry foul when students lobby for safe spaces as though these students are asking never to be confronted by something that offends them. This ignores the power dynamics of the real world. LGBT students, dreamers, Muslims, women, Jews, and sexual assault survivors aren’t asking for a space where their worldview will never be challenged. They’re asking for a space where they won’t be constantly set upon, demeaned, disrespected, and in fear for their physical safety. 7 transgender women of color were murdered in the first two months of this year. The President thinks Mexicans are rapists.

Are some students going to abuse the cries for safe spaces and trigger warnings? Sure. And some people cheat public benefits. But dismantling the social safety net just because a few people are abusing it only hurts the people who really do need it. Refusing to provide safe spaces for people who have never in their lives had safe spaces isn’t afflicting the comfortable, it’s afflicting the already afflicted.

Mar 15, 2017, 6:48 pm
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Ah.  I get it.  I thought the issue was freedom of speech.  But I had it all wrong.  After reading Greenbandit’s comment, I see the wisdom of the Middlebury students’ action.  It makes perfect sense that if they disagree with a speaker’s opinions—for example, regarding homosexual rights—they should assault him and drive him from the campus.  College life is hard enough with calculus and all that.  They shouldn’t have to deal with people whose opinions they disagree with.

Mar 16, 2017, 8:16 am
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Can you please point me to what I said in my comment that promoted assault? Or where I degrade people’s right to free speech? The article makes a total of one mention of free speech that I can find, and it doesn’t go into any detail.

I think that you’re entirely missing my point, and I suspect you’re doing so deliberately. Which is pretty intellectually dishonest. I never said people shouldn’t have to deal with people whose opinions they disagree with. I said that people should be provided some spaces where they aren’t constantly harassed. If someone’s freedom of speech involves murdering transgender women of color, that’s passed the point of speech into a crime.

I’m all for people expressing their opinions. You can have a world where people can express their opinions where people also have the ability to feel they’re not constantly under direct attack. You can have classroom discussion and not have students hurling racial slurs at each other.

Actually, I’m curious as to whether you even read my comment, since nothing you’ve said in yours seems to relate to anything I said in mine.

Mar 16, 2017, 9:45 am
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The author references the concepts of “safe spaces” and “micro-aggressions” and a recent incident at Middlebury College in which a person scheduled to speak there was forced off the campus by a fascistic mob.  Professor Allison Stanger was assaulted in the incident (ref., e.g., “Another temper tantrum on a college campus”, BernardGoldberg.com).  The author appears to be stating that he hopes the new UA president doesn’t subscribe to the idea that students need to be protected from different points of view.  He also seems to suggest that students are best served by exposure to a range of viewpoints, as that gives them the opportunity to learn how to respond in rational and civil ways.  If college had been a “safe place” for me, it would have been a waste of my time and money.  I’m grateful it wasn’t.

Mar 16, 2017, 9:52 am
-1 +0

Alright, I think I’m seeing where our miscommunication is.

You seem to be making the same mistake that the author is making in assuming that anyone who advocates for safe spaces and against micro-aggressions is trying to silence speech. I have been trying to be clear that I see this dichotomy as false. I don’t know how I can be clearer.

There is a false equivalency in the article (and, frankly, in your responses) between “not being offended” and “not being attacked.” You say you’re glad that college wasn’t a “safe place” for you.

Were you raped? Were you beaten? Were you called racial slurs? Did you have to hide your sexuality? Did you have to subscribe to gender roles that you feel don’t reflect who you are?

If so, I deeply regret that you had to go through all that. If what you mean, instead, is that you talked to people who had opposing viewpoints (like we’re doing right now) then your safety was never actually in question. Your complacency was.

Do you see the difference?

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