March 9, 2016 | Commentary on Higher Education, Political Thought

Seeking Safe Spaces on Campus Report

Once upon a time, a conservative speaker was invited to a university to speak. Although many liberals on campus disagreed with him, they listened to his speech and then asked questions, leading to a discussion that left everyone better informed about current issues.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. The reality, circa 2016, is this: The conservative speaker was disinvited when liberal students and faculty learned that, horror of horrors, someone who disagreed with them would be permitted to speak on campus. Their shrieking complaints scared the cowardly administrators into ensuring the speaker never even arrived.

Or if the speaker wasn’t canceled, he was met with protesters who — expressed their opposing views peacefully outside while he spoke inside? Ha, no. This is 21st century reality, remember? The protesters were loud, vulgar and physical. They blocked doors, forcing police to arrive and ensure that the event didn’t swirl into a series of ugly, violent fights.

That’s how it happened on Feb. 25 when commentator Ben Shapiro showed up at California State University, Los Angeles to deliver a talk called “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.” President William Covino tucked tail when the usual caterwauling began and canceled the event. Mr. Shapiro vowed to come anyway.

Mr. Covino then reversed the cancellation, and Mr. Shapiro came after all, leading to a confrontation like the one I just described.

As Natalie Johnson reported for DailySignal.com:

“Led primarily by the school’s Black Student Union and Black Lives Matter chapter, the hundreds of demonstrators, including some professors, poured into the Student Union building Thursday afternoon to block other students from attending the event.

“Many in the dense crowd of protesters shoved and shouted at attendees who tried slipping through the doors.

“Members of the conservative Young America’s Foundation, host of the event said they were forced to sneak groups of four to five in the back door leading directly to the theater to avoid catching the attention of protesters who hadn’t yet obstructed the last entrance.”

Police told the attendees to stay put until the mob dispersed. At one point, a protester pulled the fire alarm, forcing Mr. Shapiro to speak over the shrill noise of the alarm and the pounding at the doors.

Of course, many speakers avoid this fate by not showing up at all. Controversial commencement speakers such as author Ann Coulter and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have found themselves “disinvited” when outraged liberals have whined to chicken-hearted administrators.

Are students really that thin-skinned? Judging by what happened after Milo Yiannopoulos’ March 1 address at the University of Pittsburgh, yes.

It seems the Breitbart tech editor didn’t mince words. According to The Pitt News, he “called students who believe in a gender wage gap ‘idiots,’ declared the Black Lives Matter movement a ‘supremacy’ group, while feminists are ‘man-haters.’ “

That’s tough talk, obviously, but how did some students react? By calmly stating their contrary opinion? No. By expressing their fear. As Breitbait.com reported:

“The University of Pittsburgh’s Student Government Board held a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss the traumatizing visit the night before from Yiannopoulos, during which students described themselves as feeling ‘hurt’ and ‘unsafe.’
“So many of us shared in our pain. I felt I was in danger, and I felt so many people in that room were in danger,” proclaimed Marcus Robinson, student and president of the Pittsburgh Rainbow Alliance. Mr. Robinson also suggested that councilors should have been provided in another room to protect students who felt ‘traumatized’ by Yiannopoulos’s opinions.”

Traumatized. By an opinion. And so the little snowflakes demand “safe spaces” where they can be protected from words.

And remember, this is happening not just at California State or Pitt, but at schools of “higher learning” nationwide. No wonder Everett Piper, head of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, wrote an open letter last fall calling on students to “grow up,” noting that “our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic.”

Indeed it has. Will we do them a favor and give them remedial lessons in free speech? Or continue to yield to the little dictators?

 - Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation.

 - This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times.

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
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Originally appeared in The Washington Times