There is a piece by a well-known New York Times columnist alleging that universities are somehow discriminatory toward conservative views. This is one of the most boring cliches in all of higher ed reporting, not least because it depends on gerrymandering the university: yes, if you cut out economics, business, athletics, and the administration — which is to say, all the most powerful groups at most major universities — then there turns out to be a disproportionate number of Democrats, and that creates social discomfort if someone wants to express Republican views.
For some context, let’s look at what happens at universities that are overtly run by conservatives. I recall a case within the last year where a professor was forced out at Wheaton for making the controversial but arguable theological claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I could name many other similar cases from my former denomination’s higher ed system.
Conservatives may feel uncomfortable talking about how much they love small government at the departmental holiday party, but there’s really no comparison. And if conservatives get tired of the hostile environment in comp lit circles, then I suggest that they practice some self-care and find a “safe place” where their ideas are taken for granted — namely, the entire rest of American society.
The irony, of course, is that conservatives are most opposed to “safe spaces,” but perhaps that’s because they’re so thoroughly ensconsed in “safe spaces” that they don’t even notice them. “Safe spaces” are just the air they breathe. And for that reason, I think campus activists should consider rebranding the “safe spaces” concept.
My suggestion for a new name: “interesting spaces.” It’s not that you can’t handle contradiction or are afraid to hear painful truths — it’s that when you’re dealing with something really important to you, you don’t want to waste your time engaging with someone who feels entitled to pass judgment after 4.3 seconds of half-distracted thought. This is doubly so when we reflect that the compelling ideas that these gadflies are bringing are actually cliches that everyone has heard a million times. If you want to create a space for interesting discourse, you need to do some pruning of tedious, thoughtless ideas. And if you want to participate, you should try to be less boring.
“But I’m not boring!” Yeah, I knew you’d say that. Try again.