Colleges Abandon Open Debate to Create Leftist “Safe Spaces”

Posted on Jun 5, 2017 in Politics

Colleges Abandon Open Debate to Create Leftist “Safe Spaces”

University campuses used to be places for open discourse and intellectual debate, but this is no longer true thanks to a chorus of voices on the left.

Calls for “safe spaces” where students won’t be emotionally “triggered” by ideas with which they disagree have multiplied and the number of violent protests, overwhelmingly against conservative speakers, have exploded in the past year.

Classes that previously taught political philosophy, rhetoric, debate and moral philosophy are either closing or finding it difficult to continue under student pressure to censure thinking that doesn’t lean left.

The most recent example of leftist student groups issuing demands to mold universities into safe echo chambers is the 64 point list of demands issued to the University of Maryland.

A coalition of 25 student organizations is pushing for a wide range of demands, e.g. #1 requiring diversity training to all Greek organizations, and #45 one room in each major building designated for Muslim prayer.

Demand #55 stipulates a “full-time undocumented-student coordinator” who would “advocate, advise, represent and protect undocumented students”.

Demand #34 mandates faculty training for inclusion of “queer folks” and number 20 requires that the university verbally acknowledge at every event that the campus is built on indigenous land, whatever that is supposed to mean. From the random mixing of roommate genders (#35) to opening classes that counteract negative images of Islam (#48), the list goes on.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, (FIRE), the number of speakers who were uninvited after being invited to speak at campus events reached a record high of 46 in 2016.

Students on many campuses have not been satisfied simply to publish lists and peacefully ask for their leftist utopias either.

Violent incidents doubled between 2015 and 2016, with 42 incidents reported on universities, which beats the previous yearly record of 34 set in 2013.

Of those 42 incidents in 2016, fully 35 of them were caused by left-leaning students and the majority of the speakers who were turned away after securing an invitation were right-leaning.

In one case, John Derbyshire had his invitation to speak at Williams College canceled by its president, Adam Falk, due to fears that Derbyshire’s speech could be offensive to Black students.

Yet it was the Black community, through African-American student Zach Woods, who had invited the speaker as part of the “uncomfortable learning series” that brings controversial speakers to campus.

Ari Cohn, the director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program was quoted as saying, ” The increasing unwillingness to allow anyone on campus to hear ideas with which one disagrees poses a grave risk to students’ intellectual development.

Rather than seeking to banish controversial or offensive ideas from campus, students would be far better off if they confronted, grappled with, and rigorously debated the views that they find disagreeable.”

The teaching itself at many universities has been stifled and warped by leftist censorship that is anything but liberal, in the classical sense. It was at the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 that Professor Daniel Bonevac canceled his popular philosophy class “Contemporary Moral Problems” because students refused

or were afraid to apply classical philosophy to consider both sides of a debate.

The extremely popular class, which had run for 20 years to groups of 600 students, used the philosophical works of Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Kant, Mill, Rawls and others, as well as contemporary thinkers to approach moral issues from multiple perspectives.

Bonevac and his students grappled with such hot-button issues as drug legalization, sexual behavior, the environment, abortion, capital punishment, war, economic equality, affirmative action and immigration.

That was until several students began to shut down discussion and intimidate other students into silence.

Bonevac would often present one side of an issue on a Monday lecture, providing it with the best support available, and then reverse that position and present its opposite on the Wednesday class.

Bonevac explained, “Teaching the course successfully requires presenting a fair balance of arguments, treating each side respectfully but also critically, and exposing students to the best arguments I can find on each side.”

Students have come to see their own familiar views as boring and those of their opponents as dangerous, and debate was shut down as students feared being labeled as racist, misogynist or any number of other terms.

Demanding “safe places” free of opposing views and condemning debate for fear it would “trigger” emotional responses is incredibly destructive to intellectual development.

Through this trend from the left, higher education is being robbed of the ability to engage critical thinking, expose students to a change of views and allow healthy debate on campus.
Back to home page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.