Everyone desires a place to feel safe, surrounded by happy thoughts and similar opinions. However, universities in their very essence are—and should always be—the exact opposite.
College campuses are a hodgepodge of different people, religions, backgrounds and opinions. The beauty of higher education is that it surrounds students with ideas that challenge their current worldviews.
If a student cannot go to class because his or her professor will be discussing something upsetting, the best choice is to overcome the phobia of adversity. Instead of forcing the world to tiptoe around “triggers,” people should take personal responsibility and be accountable for healing the hurt and fear they experience.
Therapeutic environments are beneficial and serve as a great resource for students suffering from anxiety that may come with controversial topics. Group discussions and therapies are a fantastic way to be surrounded with likeminded, supportive people. If students want a place to go with their friends and likeminded peers to discuss their problems, they should definitely start with such an environment.
The problem arises when the people in these groups start believing the outside world should cater to their specific beliefs and fears. According to a March 21 New York Times article, Oxford University’s Christ Church college censors—better known as deans—canceled a debate regarding abortion. The censors chose to do this because the feminist organization on campus threatened to disrupt the event since the debaters were men. J
ust so I am clear in my understanding, because a few sexist feminists on campus held the belief that men were not allowed to have an opinion on the topic, campus discourse was interrupted. This interruption led to the denial of students’ rights to peacefully and intellectually debate with one another in an otherwise academic, intellectually stimulating environment.
Trigger warnings and safe spaces dangerously label certain opinions as good or bad—not simply bad, but evil or toxic. One group of people should not be allowed to dictate what is acceptable for others to believe. People with different opinions should be able to exist together in the same space. Banning certain opinions or topics on campuses will not foster an environment that encourages growth and learning, but will instead stifle critical thinking and problem-solving. S
tudents are pushing for universities to make professors to add “trigger warnings” to their syllabi so that students can avoid distasteful topics. If anything, students need to be exposed to more controversial topics on campus. A speaker or debate that triggers an emotional response from its audience is one that has succeeded in connecting with its listeners. Inflammatory articles, speeches and works are intentionally so.
An air of controversy sparks debate, so even if a student completely disagrees with a work, he or she will benefit from it. When opinions are challenged, they can become stronger through research and debate or they could change completely. Hiding from events and situations that challenge opinions is not beneficial.
The real world has no safe spaces. Walking into a lecture hall and hearing a discussion about something unpleasant should not be seen as a traumatic event. Differing opinions exist everywhere. Oversensitivity will do nothing but suppress intellectual debate, which is not something that should be allowed in a college environment.
Follow Madison Teague on Twitter at @maddiebell_bell.