The Model of a Modern Major University

1 May 2015
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‘You can’t say “the black kid over there”. No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.’ Those are the words of world famous American comedian Chris Rock on why he doesn’t perform at American colleges anymore. Apparently they aren’t the great marketplace of ideas they used to be. Who knew?

But if comedians can’t be bothered performing at universities these days, at least we can laugh at some of the absurd things the American campus thought police got up to last year, as reported on Reason’s excellent blog.

During a recent public discussion on free speech at Smith College—a women’s liberal arts school—President of the college Kathleen McCartney used the word ‘crazy’. When the college newspaper reproduced a transcript of the discussion, they wrote McCartney’s statement as follows: ‘We’re all just wild and (ableist slur), aren’t we?’ What’s more, the transcript was prefaced with the following impressively gargantuan ‘trigger warning’:

Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti- Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/ misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.

Looks like the discussion covered all the big issues.

At Broward College in Florida, 22-year-old conservative activist Lauren Cooley ran into trouble with campus security for asking students walking to and from class whether they thought that ‘big government sucks’. Security told her that openly discussing politics was prohibited and that she must move to one of the ‘free speech zones’ located around campus or else she would be arrested.

Free speech zone? I thought the United States of America was a free speech zone.

The Dean of Students at the University of Minnesota publicly apologised for students holding a fiesta-themed galactic bowling party where some attendees wore sombreros and ponchos. She gave the Latina/o and Chicana/o communities the sinister assurance that the students involved would be ‘educated’.

But this is my favourite. At the University of California students must identify certain words and phrases as ‘problematic’ before they can register for classes. These include, ‘bitch’, ‘pimp’, ‘slut’ and the phrase ‘I’d hit that’.

University is a great opportunity for people to broaden their horizons, consider the weighty questions that have confounded the great thinkers of history, and have their own perspectives challenged. Maybe. But first, the University of California wants to make doubly sure that its students know that saying ‘I’d hit that’ isn’t really appropriate in polite society.

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