Tide Turning: More Colleges Denying Students Safe Spaces

It ain't much, but it's a start.

It was refreshing to hear that the University of Chicago told its fall students not to expect trigger warnings or safe spaces while on campus this semester. Now two more colleges are joining the bandwagon to turn the tide in favor of freedom of speech.

Brown University and Claremont McKenna College are taking back their campuses in the name of the First Amendment and informing students to get ready for "the free exchange of challenging ideas."

According to The College Fix, Claremont McKenna's President Hiram Chodosh, along with Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin, wrote from California:

We teach sensitive material. We do not mandate trigger warnings. We invite controversial speakers. We accord these rights to our students as well, whether they agree or disagree with faculty, administrators, or one another...

To benefit fully from the free exchange of challenging ideas, we must ensure that all people with different viewpoints, experiences, and analyses are included in our conversations. We protect the freedom of association as an individual and collective right. We reject exclusion and ad hominem attacks as barriers to learning. All of us—students, faculty, and staff—must commit to high standards of civility, respect, and appreciation for differences. All of us must value and support one another in challenging ourselves to analyze issues from many sides, to develop rigorous tools of intellectual inquiry, and to cultivate the habits of mind of an educated citizen.

Rhode Island's Brown U Provost Richard Locke sent out a campus-wide e-mail last week with the subject "Reaffirming Values: Campus Dialogue and Discourse:"

Conversations about serious issues are too often characterized as polarizing, and occur in a highly charged, rancorous atmosphere where speakers often anticipate being criticized, ridiculed or “called out.” Those who are uncertain or uncomfortable often remain silent or are reluctant to engage. We must work to empower all individuals to share their viewpoints, even if it makes some of us, at times, feel uncomfortable. Creating an environment in which productive dialogue occurs is essential for our University: It brings together people from across the political and social spectrums and from a range of experiences to share and engage a wide variety of views on the challenges facing our society. This is how we learn from one another and strengthen our community.

Brown is taking it one step further by scheduling lectures to address many of these issues that have stymied speech on campus, including "The Unsafe Spaces of Democracy," "Freedom of Speech in the University," and "Free Speech and Civil Disobedience."

The University of Chicago was a little more forward with its message, telling students, "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."

But the special snowflakes at these universities aren't giving up the fight that easily. The UoC letter already sent students into a panic, with some saying the school is asking students to "check their compassion and their experiences at the door." Others complained that the letter ignores "issues related to sexual violence, disability injustice, police discrimination and many more."

Also, liberal outlets, like Vox and Salon, are chiding the decision to take back the cry-bully culture by saying trigger warnings are "pedagogical imperatives" and declaring that "trauma is real."

The fight is just beginning, but it's good to see the first defensive shots being fired.