Authored by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, first posted in USA Today
With puppies, Play-doh and coloring books, safe spaces and therapy sessions turn universities into a joke.
One of the more amusing bits of fallout from last week’s election has been the safe-space response of many colleges and universities to the election of the “wrong” candidate. But on closer examination, this response isn’t really amusing. In fact, it’s downright mean.
Trump’s substantial victory, when most progressives expected a Hillary landslide, came as a shock to many. That shock seems to have been multiplied in academe, where few people seem to know any Trump supporters — or, at least, any Trump supporters who’ll admit to it.
The response to the shock has been to turn campuses into kindergarten. The University of Michigan Law School announced a ”post-election self-care” event with “food and play,” including “coloring sheets, play dough [sic], positive card-making, Legos and bubbles with your fellow law students.” (Embarrassed by the attention, UM Law scrubbed the announcement from its website, perhaps concerned that people would wonder if its graduates would require Legos and bubbles in the event of stressful litigation.)
Stanford emailed its students and faculty that psychological counseling was available for those experiencing “uncertainty, anger, anxiety and/or fear” following the election. So did the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.
Meanwhile, even the Ivy League wasn’t immune, with Penn (Trump’s alma mater) creating a post-election safe space with puppies and coloring books:
Student Daniel Tancredi reported that the people who attended were “fearful” about the results of the election.
“For the most part, students just hung out and ate snacks and made small talk,” Tancredi told The College Fix. “Of course, that was in addition to coloring and playing with the animals.”
At Cornell, meanwhile, students held a "Cry-in."
As the event took place, students — roughly 20 or so, according to the Sun’s video — wrote their reactions and emotions on poster boards with colored markers, or with chalk on the ground. A chilly day on the Ithaca campus, at one point the demonstrators huddled together as what appeared to be a barista brought them warm drinks. Several adults, most likely professors, stood around the group. The event appeared to take on the atmosphere of a funeral wake.
Yale had a ”group scream.”
At Tufts, the university offered arts and crafts, while the University of Kansas reminded students that there were plenty of “therapy dogs” available. At other schools, exams were cancelled and professors expressed their sympathy to traumatized students.
It’s easy to mock this as juvenile silliness — because, well, it is juvenile silliness of the sort documented in Frank Furedi’s What Happened To The University? But that’s not all it is. It’s also exactly what these schools purport to abhor: An effort to marginalize and silence part of the university community.
In an email to students, the University of Michigan’s President, Mark Schlissel, wrote: “Our responsibility is to remain committed to education, discovery and intellectual honesty — and to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are at our best when we come together to engage respectfully across our ideological differences; to support ALL who feel marginalized, threatened or unwelcome; and to pursue knowledge and understanding.”
But when you treat an election in which the “wrong” candidate wins as a traumatic event on a par with the 9/11 attacks, calling for counseling and safe spaces, you’re implicitly saying that everyone who supported that “wrong” candidate is, well, unsafe. Despite the talk about diversity and inclusion, this is really sending the signal that people who supported Trump — and Trump carried the state of Michigan, so there are probably quite a few on campus — aren’t really included in acceptable campus culture. It’s not promoting diversity, it’s enforcing uniformity. It’s not promoting inclusion, it’s practicing exclusion. And, though it pretends to be about nurturing, it’s actually about being mean to those who don’t fall in the nurtured class. Schlissel says he wants the University of Michigan to be “a welcoming place for all members of society,” but how welcome can students who backed Trump feel in the wake of this performance?
A viral (and profane) YouTube rant by Jonathan Pie points out that this sort of fear and “othering” of political opponents is why Trump won, and why Democrats were shocked by his victory. Pie’s right to tell people that they should engage in discussion rather than dismissal of people they disagree with, and colleges and universities should listen to him.
If, that is, it’s not too triggering.