An Open Letter to the University of Chicago
Dear University of Chicago,
There’s been a lot of talk about your letter to students warning them not to expect trigger warnings or safe spaces.
A lot of people have cheered. And look, I get it — everyone of us who went to college has been in a classroom where a self righteous, usually pony tailed hipster derailed the conversation to make an irrelevant point about their pet cause. College is and should be a place where you’re allowed to play with unpopular and stupid ideas, and even more importantly, where you should encounter and engage those ideas.
No one believes this more than this former debater, trust me.
But here’s the thing: there’s a reason people with power like to make statements like this.
Think about it — why didn’t Chicago send a letter telling it’s student body not to rape? Or sternly worded notice telling them that racism was not OK on campus? Is the scourge of safe spaces so overwhelming that students are shutting down classes?
Notice how the University didn’t engage with real examples of protest, but instead self righteously attacked a straw man?
It’s easy to say students should engage with hard ideas.
It’s harder to say “you want to spend two seconds to warn students who might have been raped that we’re about to read a graphic depiction of rape? Fuck you.”
It’s harder to say “you want to protest your tuition being spent to pay a straight up white supremacist to talk at your school? Fuck you.”
I’m not saying that students don’t ever go too far in demanding the University conform to their ideological needs — -I’ve rolled my eyes at my share of news stories.
But when you make a public, chest thumping statement about your values to your incoming class and you focus it not on the epidemic of college rape or the struggles of being a minority or low income student on an affluent campus or even on academics, but instead on this overblown caricature of trigger warnings and safe spaces, you’re upholding the only collegiate tradition more long standing than academic freedom — -people with power telling people without it that they don’t belong.
They do belong, especially in this time and this place.
But if you don’t stop lecturing and start listening, you just might find that you no longer do.