In late August this year, the University of Chicago sent out a letter to their incoming students that contained the following excerpt: “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.”
Looking at this with a superficial understanding of the issues at hand, it seems that University of Chicago is taking a rather extreme stance on something that doesn’t seem like a worthy issue. After all, what is wrong with like-minded students assembling to discuss their shared beliefs? Who could villainize a student who merely requests some warning when an emotionally charged or sensitive issue is going to be discussed in class? Despite how it looks, the University of Chicago is not doing either of these things. They are taking an appropriately extreme stance on so called “safe-spaces” and “trigger-warnings” and the sort of culture that has accompanied them. The University of Chicago’s stance against this culture, which is easiest to describe as “politically correct” culture, is entirely justified and reasonable.
Now, to clear the air, a distinction between the above mentioned politically correct nonsense and what is good and reasonable must be established. As stated earlier, there is nothing wrong with like-minded students assembling to discuss their shared beliefs in private or a student requesting some forewarning when an emotionally charged or sensitive issue is going to be discussed in class. “Safe spaces” aren’t about a right to private assembly though, and “trigger warnings” aren’t just to help students brace themselves for touchy subjects. These two politically correct policies are about exclusion, suppression of differing opinions, and the right of certain students to not have their beliefs challenged. This is evident in the way that the University of Chicago groups these two policies with the deplorable act of canceling invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial. Make no mistake, the University is not opposed to common decency, they are opposed to politically correct culture, and the trouble it brings. In my opinion, they have every right to be.
In May of this year, the University of Missouri’s Vice Chancellor of Finance, Rhonda Gibler, reported in an interview that the University was planning on significant budget cuts after it was found that the University was expecting about 2,600 less incoming students this year. This amounts to a cost of about $36 million to the campus as reported by the Columbia Daily Tribune. For those of you that don’t know, University of Missouri is somewhat of a ground zero for scandals and fiascos, all caused by their acceptance of politically correct culture. As they were wracked by negative headlines for almost a year, it is unsurprising that University of Missouri is reporting such losses. By comparison, University of Ohio took a zero tolerance stance on the riot-like protests brought on by politically correct culture on their campus, threatening in April to expel or arrest students that wouldn’t end a disruptive occupation of a campus building. The Atlantic reported that the University gave the protesters until 5 a.m. to vacate the premise. Interestingly, Ohio State University is reporting a significant increase in their enrollment numbers this year on their official site.
Let’s return to the University of Chicago now. Their administrators have undoubtedly been watching their fellow universities. They have seen how detrimental politically correct culture has been to the University of Missouri, and they have seen the bad press the university has received. The University of Chicago wants to ensure that its students can enjoy a positive learning environment and that they can continue to operate as a university, which requires money from incoming enrollment. Looking for an example for how to do things, the University of Chicago looked to the University of Ohio, who protected their student’s right to learn in a healthy environment and protected their bottom line. The University of Chicago had a very clear-cut decision in front of them, and they made a necessary choice. They chose to give their students a very clear message about their opinion of politically correct culture, rather than risking a loss of $36 million.