AEI resident scholar and former professor Christina Hoff Sommers has been lecturing on college campuses for more than twenty years. Recently, some students have conducted protests against speech they find objectionable. They’ve forced lecturers to cancel talks, have security protect the speakers, or even have universities launch investigations into the student complaints against their professors. Dr. Sommers takes a look at this recent wave of protests, and posits that the First Amendment is being replaced by a woman’s right not to be made uncomfortable.
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Consider what happened to feminist professor Laura Kipnis at Northwestern University. She wrote an essay making light of trigger warnings and safe spacers. Two graduate students found her views “terrifying” and filed Title IX harassment charges against her. Her university, apparently intimidated by the grad students, took their charges seriously. It carried out a formal investigation of the professor and her “offending” essay. Title IX was once a common sense law about gender fairness in education. Today it’s being weaponized for use by fainting couch feminists who see the world as a battle between fragile maidens and evil predators. Vox recently published an article by a professor entitled “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.” They terrify him because as he explains, “Hurting a student’s feelings, even in the course of instruction that is absolutely appropriate and respectful, can now get a teacher into serious trouble.” I recently encountered fainting couchers at Oberlin College and Georgetown University. I visited both campuses to give talks on the need to reform feminism and correct exaggerated victim statistics. In the past, activist students who disagreed with me came to my lectures to spar and debate. Today, they issue trigger warnings and accuse me of giving them PTSD. At both Oberlin and Georgetown, activists organized safe spaces were where students could flee if they were panicked by my arguments. While I spoke at Oberlin, 35 students and a therapy dog sought refuge in a safe room. (I feel badly that I triggered a dog .) Paranoid flyers festooned the walls. The first three rows of the lecture hall were filled with students who had taped their mouths shut with red duct tape. At Georgetown, the editorial board of the school newspaper, The Hoya, denounced my lecture as “harmful” and “not the conversation that students should be having.” “Students,” said the board, “should engage in a dialogue that focuses on establishing a safe space for survivors.” Oh really? Since when are members of that board the arbiters of what can be thought and said? Imagine being an untenured professor at Georgetown. By the way, officials at both Oberlin and Georgetown were so alarmed by the frantic Facebook postings before my arrival on campus they assigned armed guards to protect me from the safe-spacers. At this moment, the fainting couchers and safe spacers are everywhere on college campuses, and they are getting their way. University and college officials, afraid of running afoul of title IX, are quietly amending the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment is being replaced by a woman’s right not to be made uncomfortable. Due process is being treated as a barrier to justice rather than its essence. Armies of gender apparatchiks are monitoring and policing speech, ideas, humor, and sexuality. Since the time of Socrates, education has been synonymous with debate, inquiry, and challenge. If universities replace the ideals of free inquiry and critical thinking with “safety,” they will have lost their reason for being. All of this psychodrama is massively embarrassing to women and to feminism. Some say these new crusaders are a feisty generation that we should admire for refusing to put up with gender injustice. Well, I don’t see the safe spacers as admirable. And I don’t believe they are taking us into some bright new future where women are secure and respected.
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