The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.
and at the University of Chicago:
A few weeks ago, Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo, spoke at the University of Chicago, protected by the security guards she has traveled with since supporters of the Islamic State issued death threats against her. During the question-and-answer period, a Muslim student stood up to object to the newspaper’s apparent disrespect for Muslims and to express her dislike of the phrase “I am Charlie.”
Ms. El Rhazoui replied, somewhat irritably, “Being Charlie Hebdo means to die because of a drawing,” and not everyone has the guts to do that (although she didn’t use the word guts). She lives under constant threat, Ms. El Rhazoui said. The student answered that she felt threatened, too.
A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.”
Why do so many college students choose to “self-infantilize?” Judith Shulevitz, author of the above-linked NYT article, quotes Eric Posner:
Also, surely, the extreme practices of “self-esteem building” indulged in by some parents and many K-12 schools have something to do with forming personalities so brittle that they shatter at the least tap of challenge.
Another reason why we see such a proliferation of college students acting like fragile flowers, though, is that adopting this persona gives them power which can be used to bully others. See the case of Omar Mahmood, who was fired from his student-paper job because it was thought that a parody he wrote might offend the Special Snowflakes (one such snowflake felt “threatened”)…and who was then subjected to actual not metaphorical vandalism.
Last week, he became the victim of what The College Fix has described as a “hate crime.” The doorway of his apartment was vandalized in the middle of the night; the perpetrators pelted the door with eggs and scribbled notes like “shut the fuck up” and “everyone hates you you violent prick.” They left copies of the offending column and a print-out picture of Satan.
The author of the above-linked column says, sarcastically:
Frankly, those who fail to understand why the anonymous staffer felt threatened haven’t been paying attention. I completely understand, and fully support, the anon staffer. Mahmood’s satire forced the staffer to do something no young person should ever be required to do, ever be required to suffer: think. This is, after all, the age of feelings, and it is clearly sufficient that deeply held beliefs not be challenged, as it gives rise to mental damage that no one should ever have to endure.
I think the self-perceived-victim-as-actual-bully will be an increasingly common type, as it is what much of today’s university climate seems designed to reward and encourage.