‘Did He Really Say That?’ The Inversion of Language on College Campuses
What is the purpose of a college education nowadays, if not to challenge ourselves intellectually? Do universities necessarily have an obligation to shield their students from ideas that might trouble them? Shouldn’t this choice be left up to the individual who is seeking higher learning? These are the questions that come to mind each time I come across an article in the news about universities finding new ways to trample on the First Amendment rights of their students as well as their faculty. Whether its by harassing professors because of a stance they happen to take or by restricting student speech to particular “free speech zones” on campus, or by disinviting certain speakers because of their political views, or just by outright punishing students for expressing an unpopular opinion, the leftist thought police on college campuses continue to amaze me as they reach new heights of intolerance all while parading under the guise of creating a “safe” and a “more inclusive” environment.
Language is the college leftists’ main weapon of choice when it comes to attacking ideas that they see as a threat. They start by declaring that their intentions are not to stifle fee speech, but to create a “safe” environment for the student body. Being “safe” traditionally means being safe from physical force or injury, but college campuses apparently exist in some other dimension in which being “safe” also includes being safe from things that might hurt one’s feelings. It doesn’t matter if there is absolutely no physical threat present, as long as a student loudly proclaims that they feel unsafe, whatever is making them feel this way be it a speaker, professor, or another student, is immediately labeled a threat and measures are taken to silence or remove them.
After contorting what it means to be safe, college leftists then move to redefining what “violence” is. The definition of violence according to Merriam-Webster is the “exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse”. The problem with this definition of violence is that it doesn’t fit with how leftists have redefined what it means to be safe, because it says nothing about the state of one’s feelings. To remedy that, leftists extend the definition of violence past physical force and into the subjective realm of one’s feelings. Now it is irrelevant whether any physical force has occurred, so long as one feels threatened. If I happen to say something you don’t like or disagree with all you would have to do is to claim that you feel threatened by what I said, and the college will likely take action against me.
Colleges may take pride in what they see as creating a “safe” environment and even claim that their interventions are good because they are allowing the “students’ voices to be heard” but by silencing ideas that students may find troubling, they are doing their students more harm than any conservative speaker could in this lifetime. Silencing opposing viewpoints because of a warped sense of language prepares students to enter a world that does not care about their feelings no matter how offended, distressed, or angry they might be. After graduation there are no administrators to create safe spaces for you, there is no division of student affairs for you to submit a complaint to and there is no dean of students you can petition because you feel threatened by someone else’s opinions. Upon graduating all one has is themselves, their degree, and whatever network or skills they may have developed over the course of their studies, and protesting the speech of others is not a very marketable skill.
People will sometimes read these stories of what is happening on our campuses and dismiss them as the idiocy of a few disgruntled students. I know that before these stories became commonplace in the news, I used to find these stories mildly amusing and never thought much of them because in my mind logic and reason will prevail! However, that is not the case now, and what I found mildly amusing 2 to 3 years ago has now grown into an actual threat to higher education as it routinely rejects the logic and reason that I hold so dear.
* Naseem Husain is from Houston, Texas and a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying theater arts. He is also a passionate Libertarian who is fed up with the leftism that has been surrounding him at school since the day he arrived.
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