Columns

Mills ’15: Playing it safe — too safe

By
Opinions Columnist
Monday, March 30, 2015

Brown was in the New York Times last week — we were on spring break. It didn’t make my day, but it came close. Judith Shulevitz, a contributing writer for the Times, wrote an op-ed about college students and how they avoid ideas that they don’t like. Her first example was Brown’s safe spaces, particularly one that was created by Brown students during the Janus Forum’s event “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” The forum featured Wendy McElroy, a speaker who has consistently challenged the idea of rape culture. Shulevitz commented on something that I’ve certainly noticed at Brown and read about elsewhere. She called Brown’s culture “self-infantilizing.”

I agreed with most of what she had to say, including her critique of trigger warnings, speech codes, safe spaces and the cancellation of provocative lectures for others’ mental health. Those restrictions on the free exchange of ideas are usually promoted as a way to keep students safe, but they’ve become about keeping students comfortable, and we have no business being comfortable.

At the 1962 Yale commencement, President John F. Kennedy said, “Too often … we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” He could have spoken those words with equal accuracy today. Many students seem to avoid engaging at all costs with ideas that scare them.

You have a right to be safe on campus. The creators of safe spaces usually have good intentions. If students actually have a panic attack during a lecture given by a controversial figure, they should have a safe place in which they could recuperate — I imagine a dorm room would probably suffice. Puppies and Play-Doh seem a little infantile to me, but I understand the intention. No one should be harmed by an educational event, but since we can generally avoid lectures, talks or screenings with which we disagree, I have trouble understanding why students would attend an event knowing it would harm them.

The problem arises when the idea of “a right to be safe” is extended to “a right to be comfortable” — and demanded. I found an example of this overreach in an online piece from Bluestockings Magazine entitled “Geographies of Safety: Mapping Safe Spaces for Students of Color at Brown University.” On Google Maps, the author, Aanchal Saraf ’16, purported to show a map of safe and unsafe spaces at Brown for students of color. Green indicated “safe,” while red marked places that she deemed were “unsafe.” And each marker had comments submitted by students specifying the reasoning behind a particular delineation.

I found a few I considered utterly ridiculous. Graduate Center was marked unsafe because it was “dingy.” Plantations House was considered unsafe because it has mice. New Dorm and Young Orchard are unsafe because “rich/international people live there.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of these markers. The author abused the rationale of safe spaces. Even the Nelson Fitness Center and the president’s house were marked as unsafe — the commentators felt a “fear of physical violence” in those buildings. I’m sorry, but unless you’re benching without a spotter, you’re probably safe in the Nelson. And I can say from personal experience that President Paxson’s P’19 dogs don’t bite.

Obviously I picked those comments for their humor, but I think they make clear how far the rhetoric has gone in calling things “unsafe.” I suppose that mice could be construed as unsafe, but if so, the danger of mice infestations is not limited to people of color, let alone certain buildings on campus. And while I too am jealous I can’t jet-set back to the south of France for spring break, rich students and international students are not doing me any harm besides hijacking my Facebook newsfeed.

There are benefits to being uncomfortable and making people uncomfortable: They are an impetus for change. Fifty years ago, black Americans were beaten, bruised and bloodied on national television. Most of America didn’t want to know what was going on in the Deep South, and they didn’t want to think about racism because it made them uncomfortable. It was unpleasant, and it was scary. But they couldn’t hide from it. It forced its way into their living rooms and kitchens on their TVs and radios. Americans watched and grew increasingly uncomfortable and outraged.

We owe it to those who continually make us uncomfortable and ashamed. We owe it to those fighting for equality and justice to face down our discomforts. Hiding wasn’t an option then, and it isn’t an option now.

Discomfort and adversity are part of growing. I didn’t come to Brown to be comfortable. When I came here, I assumed I would be generally safe from physical harm, but I never saw anything that assured me that my beliefs would be secure from attack. In fact, I assumed that, in a community that prides itself on diversity, my beliefs would be tested. This is part of Brown’s mission statement: “The mission of Brown University is to serve the community, the nation and the world by discovering, communicating and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry.” Inhibiting speech, even just in certain spaces, runs counter to our school’s core mission.

To all of the students who advocate more safe spaces, canceled lectures and speech codes: What is so threatening about people disagreeing with you? Is the concept of stop-and-frisk policing practices so threatening that you feel unsafe on a campus where it is discussed? Are you so pro-choice that the image of an aborted fetus causes you harm? Or are you afraid of having to explain yourself or think a bit too much — and where will you stop? As Shulevitz pointed out, once a space is labeled safe, it implies that all other spaces are unsafe, and it follows that they should be made safer.

As students, we don’t have a right to be comfortable. And if we seek this right out, we are doing ourselves a disservice. The University should take a position where it supports students but pushes them to their absolute limits, challenges their beliefs and makes them uncomfortable. If Brown lets us go four years without forcing us to reevaluate our core beliefs, it has failed us. If we go four years without challenging the dearly held beliefs of someone else in this community, we have failed our colleagues.

Walker Mills ’15 is happy to continue the conversation at walker_mills@brown.edu.

  • Student

    THIS! Brown has such a negative, anti-intellectual climate. It’s so disappointing. Everything becomes a personal attack, everyone is hypersensitive and looking to be insulted, every differing thought is somehow already known to be the grand cancer that’s ruining society. Heck, you can’t even try to agree with the Brown party line because chances are someone will yell at you anyway. Very sad that it’s like this, really.

    • ’14

      Brown debates = ad hominen

  • Anon

    Puppies? Play-Doh? Are you kidding me? That’s not “a little” infantile, that’s mind-bendingly, jaw-droppingly, are-you-even-potty-trained infantile.

  • Brown Alum

    Good article. The whole notion of providing a “safe space” for students to take refuge in during or following a campus event, and the Brown administration’s endorsement and facilitation of a Play-Doh-equipped safe space for the Wendy McElroy event, have made Brown a national laughingstock, once again. This Paxson-led administration is the weakest, most pathetic group of afraid-of-their-own-shadow “leaders” that I can recall since I graduated Brown in the ’70s. The real danger on Brown’s campus is not from drinking a spiked drink; it’s from drinking far too much Kool-Aid. Travesties like the McElroy safe space, the notorious Ray Kelly debacle, the reckless and rampant “rape culture” accusations, and other embarassments too numerous to recount, have driven Brown’s credibility as a legitimate place of intellectual inquiry and discourse into the toilet. The world beyond Brown looks at Brown as a “safe space” for left wing loons; moderates and right-of-center students need not apply (frankly, only God know why they would, at this point). In the real world, the one that exists far away from Brown’s radical notions of reality, the world where one is actually permitted to challenge and push back against the far left ideology that permeates Brown’s campus and dominates its culture, there are no safe spaces from speech that one finds offensive, threatening, or, heaven forbid, non-liberal. We actually have to develop thick skins, engage the perceived “offenders” in a civil manner, and, sometimes, heaven forbid, deal with having our feelings and sensibilities hurt. The price that Brown is paying and will continue to pay for cow-towing to, and creating a virtually exclusive haven for, the radical left is incalculable, in both a financial and reputational sense. Now, having said all that, what safe space can I run to and hide in when the next commenter posts comments that criticize my views or belittle me personally? I prefer red Play-Doh, please.

    • guest

      Not going to belittle you at all – as a current Brown student, I can’t agree more with all that you’ve said. At this point I am honestly embarrassed to be attending this school.

      • ’17

        If you’re embarrassed to be attending Brown, then you can leave. Nothing is keeping you here and you knew what kind of university you would be attending when you accepted the offer of admission.

        • ’13

          Wow, ’17 basically demonstrated for us the single-minded dictatorship of the Brown culture. “Believe in what we say and be proud of it, OR LEAVE!” You can almost envision ’17 protesting outside guest’s dorm room as if guest were Ray Kelly. A democracy means we respect each other’s opinions. And the students of Brown are not modelling themselves after the ancient Greeks, but rather Attila the Hun.

          The left wing has their arguments and reasons why they feel they’re correct. Of course they do. And so did Attila. But Brown is an ivy league school (or we thought so), and so we should strive to be more like an academy of Socrates and learning.

          Perhaps ’17, you should have joined the military with your attitude. It sounds like you’re good at throwing orders, “you can leave.”

          And look at the some of the comments below (Alum ’13). He/she is basically using the victimhood mentality. “They’re standing up to people in positions of power that have used that power to perpetuate violence” In other words, a group has been victimized, and thus we can step over someone else’s rights. The victimhood mentality is a very convenient weapons. Victims have the right to be overly defensive over their boundaries because they have been already been victimized. Victims also have to the right to step over someone else’s boundaries because they have been victimized. Essentially, the victimhood status is a nice weapon: he/she can justify crapping all over someone else while defending his/her rights aggressively.

          For example, because Ray Kelly has victimized other’s, his rights are no longer valid. oh and if anyone messes with the protesters, be prepared for a world of hurt.

          The worst part of the victim status is two fold:

          1) victims victimize others. And they feel nothing when they do until enough time has gone by. it takes a vampire to bite and create another vampire.

          2) victims unknowingly become dependent on others. they don’t realize until too late that there is an element of a self fulfilling prophecy in victimization.

          • SGT Ted

            I found more intellectual diversity and actual tolerance for different ideas in 26 year of Military Service than I see at todays college campuses.

        • Kiran Buenafe

          Hahahaha! So what you’re saying is you’re above reproach, criticism, and growth so everyone else can just leave? That is the exact attitude that led us to our current predicament, and you only continue to perpetuate. You are an embarrassment to institutes of higher learning everywhere.

  • Tim

    Fantastic article. This needed to be said

  • Alum ’13

    As a recent alum, I have been repeatedly surprised by the outpouring of articles (like this one) that seem to draw a false equivalency between providing a platform for intellectual debate and financially supporting the proliferation of oppressive opinions. The students who protest speakers and strive to delineate safe spaces on campus aren’t cocooning themselves against alternative foreign policy options or new theories of neuron regeneration, they’re standing up to people in positions of power that have used that power to perpetuate (or at least excuse) violence, and arguing that it’s a “slippery slope” from one to the other seems overly cynical. This article asks: “Is the concept of stop-and-frisk policing so threatening that you feel unsafe on a campus where it is discussed?” I understand that the question was posed somewhat ironically, but students of color (whom this policy disproportionately impacts) and their allies are answering with a resounding YES! The fact that the author has trouble imagining that this might be the case indicates to me that it is he who is enjoying an altogether too “comfortable” experience on campus. I, for one, am proud to have graduated from a university that continues to produce students that feel empowered and motivated to use their rights and intellectual prowess to speak out against the status quo. Go Bruno!

    • Also an Alum

      Speak out against the status quote? I am all for it. Shout down those who defend the status quo? Not cool or mature. Feeling unsafe about being on a campus where stop and frisk is simply discussed? Understandable so feel free to comment about it in public, but do not shut out those whose opinions may differ or may want to hear about it from the proverbial horse’s mouth. Brown should not be a cocoon – I love the fact that the campus blends into its host city rather than puts up walls to separate it. But that also means Brown should be part of the society in which it exists, not separate from it. And that means feeling uncomfortable at times.

      Ever true to Brown, even when it acts like the very characture people accuse it of being.

      • Alum ’13

        Also an Alum–good point. I agree that I’m not sure the shouting match would have been my personal medium of choice, but some of my classmates exposed me to another point of view on the issue. Many of the students who spoke (shouted) out in this manner were from demographics that have not traditionally been given a seat at the table, and so may have felt that, if they were to sit quietly and wait their turn, their turn to speak may never come. I’m still not certain whether this was the most effective approach for achieving their goals, but I nevertheless want to voice my support whenever fellow Brunonians experiment with different ways to enact the change they wish to see in the world.

        • …but some of my classmates exposed me to another point of view on the issue.

          You mean it’s a good idea to be exposed to different points of view even when they make you uncomfortable? Good to know.

          Many of the students who spoke (shouted) out in this manner were from demographics that have not traditionally been given a seat at the table, and so may have felt that, if they were to sit quietly and wait their turn, their turn to speak may never come.

          They seriously believed that in 21st century America they would find no outlets of communication and no audience? Or is that their excuse for shouting down others and hence taking away their turn to speak?

          I’m still not certain whether this was the most effective approach for achieving their goals…

          Hint: Martin Luther King’s and Gandhi’s movements, which faced down far worse oppression and racism than (hopefully) you will ever see, emphasized non-violence for a reason. When you’re out of power, oppressed and othered, people don’t give you the slightest benefit of the doubt so — if anything — you need to go the extra mile in terms of courtesy and decorum.

          …but I nevertheless want to voice my support whenever fellow Brunonians experiment with different ways to enact the change they wish to see in the world.

          Did you take any science or other research courses at Brown? If so, you’d have learned that experiments — especially involving human subjects — need to honor strict limits. First and foremost other people’s rights.

    • ’09

      I agree. I also think there’s a big difference between “allowing” and “inviting and paying.” If Ray Kelly had been calling Brown every day for a few months asking if they’d let him reserve a room for an hour that would be one thing. Inviting him on campus and paying for his travel, hotel, and a speaker’s fee is another.

    • Susan Li

      I am picking up everything you are putting down Alum ’13, most especially that ironically, those who accuse students who have been the victims of real trauma of “getting too comfortable” have likely enjoyed themselves altogether comfortable lives.

      I find this perfectly exemplified in the author’s completely inapplicable, false analogy of the desire to create safe spaces with the desire of 1950s White Americans to avert the racism problem. White Americans of the time were not the victims of racism, they were the perpetrators or the complicit bystanders of racism or at the very least, they in no way suffered racial persecution. They were uncomfortable with coming to terms with racism because it would mean coming to terms with injustice, a radical change in the social order in which they enjoyed the top position, and most troubling of all–a change in mindset.

      Victims of stop-and-frisk policy, sexual assault, and other race, gender, or class inequality are not uncomfortable with a change in mindset, they are uncomfortable with being told their trauma is illegitimate. They are uncomfortable with people in positions of power and great resources speaking in favor of and defending the exact kinds of policy which led to their past, present, and continuing trauma, suffering, and/or persecution. Telling a rape victim to be more open-minded towards someone who believes rape culture is largely a myth displays a gross insensitivity and indeed, close-mindedness to the suffering of others.

      A more accurate analogy of what the author seems to suggest–encouraging Brown Students who may have been victims of real trauma to be more open-minded toward controversial policies–would be in the 1950s, encouraging black Americans to watch other Black Americans beaten, bruised, and bloodied on National TV because it could be intellectually stimulating.

      • Vacenza

        A position is determined to be correct or incorrect through arguments, evidence, and reason. Not feelings. How you feel has no bearing on whether or not the concept of “rape culture” is factual or meaningful.

        Grow up. “I’m offended” is not a substitute for a logical rebuttal.

        • Alum ’13

          I understand the reasoning behind this, and as a scientist by profession I can certainly relate to the appeal of this approach in the contexts where it applies, but many moral issues aren’t really resolvable by this approach. For example, how would one go about proving or disproving the following statement: “There is a culture of rape on Brown campus.” I’m afraid that feelings would necessarily enter into that discussion. That makes it muddier for sure, but omitting that aspect entirely from the equation wouldn’t truly address the situation.

          • SGT Ted

            One could look at the actual incidences of sexual assault of college attending women as reported by the Justice Department and see that it is 1 in 165 and not 1 in 5.
            Then you could actually get the breakdown at Brown with some research. Then, you could do some more research about places like war torn Congo, that actually have a 20% rape rate and use some critical thinking to see that “rape culture” is a fraud with no supporting evidence, other than assertion and is being used as a political cudgel to attack men and fraternities.
            If and when an immature student freaks out and cannot deal with these facts emotionally and makes slurs about people being “rape apologists” or “misogynists” absent any evidence, you can ask them to leave the room and not come back until they can behave like an adult.
            If any of the Social Justice types try to violate others free speech rights using mob justice, you can expell or suspend them for violating other students rights, instead of coddling them and catering to their feelings.
            Bottom line is that you have to demand adult behavior from students and enforce it.

          • Stephen W. Houghton

            Here Here!

          • LeLeMans

            Better yet, defund the humanities and make ’em get real jobs. THAT will get their panties in a twist.

          • Doc

            Sadly they are incapable of any real work, the humanities program has been hijacked by the incompetent, a system has evolved where they force companies to hire them in various guises to ensure that they can actually get a job when they leave, of course the really moronic one go work for the various government entities. God help us all.

          • Doc

            I find it strange that a so called scientist would rebut a factual argument using emotions as metric, ‘I feel’ has no mathematical value, statistics if used neutrally are the only metric.

      • Alum ’13

        Thank you Susan for your eloquent words of support.

        • Doc

          If you get one more supporter you can all have a group hug, then tell the rest of us how you really ‘FEEL’

      • Doc

        Oh poor baby, we shouldn’t expose anyone to the real world they might become traumatized. Hey goldy locks the real world doesn’t work the way you think it should. The only way to change anything is to actually learn about it, see it, experience it yourself, it doesn’t come from a book or some pampered professor who has never worked a day in his life. Your generation are an embarrassment to your parents, I can’t even imagine what your grandparents would think of you. Li that’s Chinese right? why don’t you hop on a plane and do a tour of the Peoples Republic Of China and then you can say you experienced any or all of the nonsense your whinging about..LOL…. I showed my Chinese wife your whiny comments and she laughed, so did my 12 year old daughter and 14 and 16 year old sons, and PoPo said the idiot needs to spend a day working in the rice paddies… Grow up your an embarrassment to your culture and heritage.

      • White Americans of the time were not the victims of racism, they were the perpetrators or the complicit bystanders of racism or at the very least, they in no way suffered racial persecution. They were uncomfortable with coming to terms with racism because it would mean coming to terms with injustice, a radical change in the social order in which they enjoyed the top position, and most troubling of all–a change in mindset.

        Funny how that works. Freedom of speech in general is one of those things that mainly works in favor of the oppressed. In particular, calling out controversial things (like stop and frisk among many others) gets really inconvenient for those in power.

        A rabble rouser would want nothing more than for, say, blacks to watch other blacks being beaten bloody on national TV. What do you think those black viewers (and allies) are going to say and do next?

        Only those who know they’re on top and plan to stay there — at least as little tin gods in their hothouse domains — kick the ladder away by doing things like silencing everyone.

    • Vacenza

      And who gets to decide whether or not a given opinion is oppressive? You?

      Even if an opinion is somehow “oppressive” in the eyes of some people, it doesn’t automatically then follow that said opinion is therefore wrong. A position is determined to be correct or incorrect through of arguments, evidence, and reason. Not feelings.

    • Kiran Buenafe

      Oh please, “oppressive opinions”. You don’t know the meaning of the word oppression. You’ve insulated yourself so far from anything that might offend you that you can’t even fathom what it’s like to actually be oppressed or discriminated against. EVERYONE has the right to speak and be heard, regardless of your meaningless personal opinion. You want an oppressive opinion? It’s YOURS, because you’re the one trying to stifle the rights of freedom of speech and expression from others. Step down off the soap box.

    • Silencing is speaking out.
      War is peace.
      Freedom is slavery.
      Ignorance is strength.

      (Oh yeah, and if we don’t discuss things like stop and frisk, which arguably do impact minorities most…cui bono? People in positions of power that have used that power to perpetuate and excuse that kind of violence, that’s who.)

  • Still on Campus

    I have read several articles similar to this one which discuss the difficulty of voicing alternative opinions at Brown. My thought is, what if there were University-sponsored topics of discussion for each week? Just based on the atmosphere at Brown, difficult issues often aren’t tackled because it seems that no one else is discussing them. Either that, or everyone is just waiting for someone to breach the subject. As such, I’m more likely to discuss issues with a smaller group of people that I know (and share more opinions with), than with the entire campus and every point of view it can offer. If there were planned discussions on a wide variety of issues, I know I’d be more likely to shout something out and be proven wrong.
    I’ll see about starting such a thing after I’ve finished reading this book that I forgot to read over spring break. 😉 …Life carries on, after all.

  • Kathryn Samp

    There are some good points here, but it’s both incomplete and unconvincing without a discussion about the actual real effects of speech when it comes from oppressors versus those who experience discrimination.

    There’s a huge difference between being uncomfortable in a place of privilege and being uncomfortable in a place of oppression, and the author does not seem to realize this.

    The reason most Americans couldn’t hide from news stories about violent racism was not for lack of trying! Even today, people ignore and deny facts about oppression, hiding behind opinion and belief as if it could ever compete with reality. Sadly, it does every day. When a debate allows someone to spread an opinion about rape culture or stop-and-frisk as equivalent to the actual facts and statistics that prove the inequality and violence behind both of those realities in our society, it does the opposite of promoting free speech: it perpetuates the backwards, false ideas that limit the fight for equality for the oppressed.

    People who have experienced violence or discrimination shouldn’t have to “feel uncomfortable with their ideas” because they are speaking from a place of real experience. They have nothing to question. The real ideas that need to be questioned are the ones which deny these experiences.

    The situations that the author cites are directly opposed to one another: a debate between two people who disagree on the existence of rape culture is not at all comparable to how stories about violent racism eventually broke into public media. Instead, this debate would be more comparable to a debate in that era of whether or not racism existed. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that anyone would support the oppression described by the debater who denied racism. Yet, it is both conceivable and the reality that there are those who support the debater who denied the violence perpetuated by the ideas of rape culture today.

    The university’s sponsorship of speeches and debates that falsely equate the beliefs of defenders of real oppression and violence with the beliefs of those who deny oppression and violence promotes the continued existence of the systems that create inequality today. Free speech and debating is important, and with a different structure or forum, the university could effectively promote both of these things (safe rooms with play doh are probably not the answer). However, the current system fails those who are fighting for freedom and equality against those with the privilege to believe that inequality doesn’t even exist.

    • Vacenza

      So your position, essentially, is that certain ideas should not be explored or debated because, in your opinion, the truth of the matter is so blindingly obvious that such exploration would serve no purpose. If that’s the case, then why object to a debate that is certain to be short and decisive. With one side clearly in the right and the other side clearly wrong? Obviously not everyone agrees on the idea of “rape culture,” so why not have a debate and see which side presents the most compelling arguments? Even if you’re certain that you’re correct, it doesn’t hurt to confirm and reinforce the rationale behind you’re “obviously correct” opinion. Don’t take comfort in the false certainty of consensus. If you’re right, then you should be able to explain WHY you’re right.

      Thank you for showing up to remind all of us why editorials like this one are so badly needed. You can try to rationalize your moral and intellectual cowardice all you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still ultimately just hiding from ideas that you find distasteful. If someone is wrong, then show up to the debate and demonstrate WHY they’re wrong. It’s not enough to simply declare a differing position “oppressive” and then run to your panic room to start making a necklace out of play-doh.

      • Kathryn Samp

        No, you seem to have misunderstood the argument. I suggest you reread, but if it’s still unclear, let me restate.

        Certain ideas must be debated and discussed, because the prevalence of prejudices and untrue assumptions makes interpreting the facts difficult for some people, especially those with privilege. Debates can and should make those with wrong ideas see the reality and come to terms with their position of gaining from institutionalized inequality.

        When Brown sponsors events with the goal of debating in mind, however, it often fails to create an environment where ideas are presented accurately. Instead, opinion is presented as being just as weighty as facts. When the university establishes these environments, the message behind it is emphasized by the position of the university–a position of power.

        You seem to be making the same mistake as the author. It’s not the idea of debating ideas that is problematic; rather, the form these debates take, reinforced by the power of the university, create the environments that perpetuate falsities and evoke the unsafe feelings that necessitate the creation of a recovery space.

        The problem is that when a university sponsors a debate involving discussion about the existence of rape culture, I (or any concerned person) cannot just “show up to the debate and show why I’m right.” No matter how often I cite the facts that prove why it’s not just opinion that I’m spouting but reality, I cannot make any more progress than the person in the actual debate: Brown has already decided to place fact and denial of fact as equivalent in value. This is what I mean by the effect of power structures on free speech.

        I hope this clarifies the difference between free speech and debate by individuals and events tied to power systems that have the potential to perpetuate inequality. It’s not “moral and intellectual cowardice” to fight for equality and freedom.

        • Tim

          I’m not trying to deny that rape culture exists, but shouldn’t Brown students on the fence be allowed to hear both sides of the debate in order to make their own decision about the issue?

          Sure, there may be incorrect statements made but that’s probably true for both sides of the debate, as it is for essentially any debate. Brown students should be intelligent enough to sift through the arguments (and falsehoods) to arrive at the correct conclusion. If you trust in the ability of Brown students to analyze arguments well, why prevent them from hearing alternative points of view?

          Like Vacenza said, if the topic is as clear cut as you make it out to be, then your argument should be incredibly compelling and Brown students should recognize that. If the other argument is more compelling, the topic probably isn’t as black and white as you think.

          • ’09

            Except it doesn’t work that way. See climate change and vaccines.

          • ’09

            and evolution

          • Tim

            Yes some people are persuaded by false evidence but I guarantee the vast majority of Brown students aren’t… How many Brown students are anti-vaccines or don’t believe in climate change? I would guess almost nobody.

            My entire premise was that Brown students are intelligent enough to sift through the arguments and evidence presented by both sides in order to arrive at the correct answer. I don’t see anything in your arguments that suggest they aren’t.

          • Doc

            LOL… Well all the woman are screwed then, can’t beat evolution. LMAO..

          • ok ’09

            Ok, show me the scientific proof that we live in a rape culture in here in the U.S. No one can ever seem to provide me with an answer on this one, besides citing Ms. Magazine.

          • ’15
        • Doc

          The only privilege I see in all of this is the left wing being privileged and pampered to the degree that they somehow think they can escape reality. As for oppression, maybe during your time off between semesters you could take a little trip to Africa or Bangladesh or Myanmar and see real oppression, in fact better yet just a short flight away are two wonderful bastions of socialism, Cuba and Venezuela, why don’t you and your ilk toddle off down there and experience first hand everything that you wish for your own country.

        • onlooker

          “No matter how often I cite the facts that prove why it’s not just
          opinion that I’m spouting but reality, I cannot make any more progress than the person in the actual debate: Brown has already decided to place fact and denial of fact as equivalent in value.”

          This also reads as, “Everything I believe is fact, everything you believe is wrong, and you are not allowed to express your incorrect opinion.” Which is oppressive.

    • Kiran Buenafe

      I call BS, total and utter BS. “Those who experience discrimination?” Please, none of these students experience discrimination. The suffer from a severe and lethal case of victimhood caused by an overdose of entitlement and coddling. College is supposed to prepare you for the real world. Not devolve you into a whimpering 2 year old.

      • Doc

        Whoooo…..Steady on the 2 years olds, most if not all of them have more sense in their 2 short years on the planet than these morons.

    • TefExpat
    • Some Guy

      Kathryn, when you take it upon yourself to try to shut someone else up because you don’t like what they’re saying, then YOU are the oppressor, you brain-dead self-righteous twat.

    • SGT Ted

      You are not oppressed, nor is anyone privileged enough to attend a College in the USA. You don’t even know what oppression is. You only know how to use the word as a magic shield from dissent and criticism.

      • Doc

        And reality.

    • onlooker

      “When a debate allows someone to spread an opinion about rape culture or
      stop-and-frisk as equivalent to the actual facts and statistics that
      prove the inequality and violence behind both of those realities in our
      society, it does the opposite of promoting free speech …”

      This reads as, “Everything I believe is fact, everything you believe is wrong, and you are not allowed to express your incorrect opinion.” And THAT is oppressive.

    • Good morning Ms. Samp,

      …speeches and debates that falsely equate the beliefs of defenders of real oppression and violence with the beliefs of those who deny oppression and violence…

      What you call falsely equating is what the rest of us call an open mind. Debates aren’t there to rubber stamp your personal opinions of what is and is not oppression and violence.

      People who have experienced violence or discrimination shouldn’t have to “feel uncomfortable with their ideas” because they are speaking from a place of real experience. They have nothing to question.

      Actually, the whole question is where the actual facts end and opinion begins.

      If a white fellow student was mugged by black men, would he have experienced a simple mugging, or a crime ridden black underclass? You can’t tell simply from what he saw, heard and felt.

      Likewise, “rape culture” is a matter of opinion. As the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) says:

      Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime…

      Last but not least, you’re absolutely right about privilege and oppression being major factors here. Namely, that open discussion about really touchy issues helps to put privileged folks’ feet to the fire. The last thing truly oppressed people want is to be muzzled, and that’s what happens when one group gets to define once and for all what is and is not real oppression and violence.

  • tgold

    Great article. Oh the irony of oppressive liberalism…

  • Bruh

    I think you’re hopelessly confused. :'(

  • Alex Boden

    That’s what happens when you raise a generation of entitled-pussywhipped asshats, who think everyone owes them something. So now we have this generation of Social Justice Warriors and Special Snowflakes and they’re beginning to get into positions of power, it’s scary as all hell.

  • TefExpat
  • TefExpat
  • Kiran Buenafe

    “Safe spaces” are the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard of at a college university. I’d sooner listen to Rush Limbaugh than we treated as an overly emotional 2 year old lacking the capacity to ingest new ideas that lead to growth of character and intelligence. College students have become the biggest babies around, and we’re only continuing to encourage them to become even more insular and incapable of function in the real world. There are no safe spaces outside of these baby rooms. What are you going to do when you have to get a job and work with real people in a real environment? Curl up into a ball and cry? Demand to play with Playdough? Whoever came up with this idea had absolutely no idea what they were doing, and should never be allowed to make any decisions about lectures, speakers, or any exchange of thought and ideas on campus ever again.

    • Diggsc

      The fact that you used listening to Rush Limbaugh as an example of being emotionally battered means that you are not only on the side that thought up, supports, and demands all these infantile protections, but that you yourself are maybe one month past being an “overly emotional 2 year old lacking the capacity to ingest new ideas”.

      • Kiran Buenafe

        Only you don’t see me protesting to take Rush off the air, you don’t see me running to the puppies at the mention of his name, and in fact I’ve already explictly stated that I would listen to him over going to such a space. Whoops, looks like the joke’s on you.

      • Kiran didn’t do that, but instead simply explained that even while disagreeing with conservatism, doesn’t need to be protected from diverse ideas.

        Take yes for an answer!

  • Some Guy

    “unsafe because “rich/international people live there.” ”

    Seems to me that’s a rather blatant example of xenophobia, and whoever said that should be ashamed of themselves.

  • SGT Ted

    The problem lies in the Special Snowflake “social justice” crowd claiming that speech, or the presence of people they don’t like, makes them “unsafe”. Far too many of these Social Justice types are having their fragile emotional states catered to by violating other peoples civil rights. They are abetted by “Student Life” administrative employees, looking to justify their existence and play the hero. The student activists need to be ignored and those employees need to be fired.
    If a student is too fragile emotionally to handle dissenting or uncomfortable ideas, they obviously don’t belong on campus and need to go home and come back when they are ready for college.
    People the same age as these alleged college attending adults are in the Military, living in really nasty environments with people trying to kill them. The idea that someone’s “feeelz” being hurt is grounds for claiming to be “unsafe” is laughable and the response SHOULD be laughter and ridicule. Instead, College administrations bend over forward to please these spoiled children.

  • Diggsc

    “If students actually have a panic attack during a
    lecture given by a controversial figure, they should have a safe place
    in which they could recuperate…”
    Wow. So now students at elite colleges have been raised in such isolated pampered splendor that they have panic attacks LISTENING to something?
    The dorm room you suggest is not far enough away from the “controversial figure”. How about the tender snowflake go all the way back to Mommy’s basement, and let someone eager to learn, expand their knowledge, hear controversial things, think about what other people are thinking, saying, doing, attend Brown.

    • As Steve Foerster said, take yes for an answer. Mr. Mills was saying that we already have “safe spaces,” called dorm rooms. We don’t need to construct more — or if we do, at most just provide a few for some to retreat to but don’t let them dictate what the rest of us discuss, listen to and otherwise experience.

  • Steve

    Can someone tell me where the “right to be safe” is found in our Constitution? The Declaration talks about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, but doesn’t claim a right to safety. The 2nd Amendment provides you with legal basis for arming yourself for self-defense, but doesn’t say you have a right to be safe. I don’t remember Locke, Smith or Thoreau discussing a right to be safe… where did this poppycock come from?

    • Uppity McBossy

      and get it straight, oppressed children: the Happiness isn’t guaranteed, only the Pursuit.

    • Mr. Mills was saying that the concept of “emotional safety” was more nebulous and unworkable than physical safety, which at least has boundaries.

  • Steve

    I think our overly protected offspring need to go on a police ride along, or watch American Sniper or Saving Private Ryan if they need a quick dose of reality. Its a real jungle out there, some places more than others. Just this week an Islamic terrorist group attacked a college in Kenya, killing 147 people. I doubt the dead students were worried about something someone said that made them uncomfortable. They were rightly worried about being killed because they were Christians. No one really cares if you are offended, upset or enraged by their Free Speech. Nor should they be. If you are so pathetic that words alone cause you distress, then you are likely a leading candidate for Darwin’s dead end crew.

    • Doc

      We can only hope that this generation will either grow up and face reality or never marry and die off so there seed doesn’t pollute the planet.

  • Mark Terr

    Are “students of color” not ready for college life? This is self-slander.

  • SaraB55

    Kudos to Walker Mills. As a Brown alumnus myself, I know how badly the campus needs articles like this to challenge the fetid mindset that prevails there. The leftist radicals on campus are sniveling children who have no sense of personal responsibility.

  • Carl Fales

    There seems to have been an inverse relationship between the cost of attending college and the quality of the education received since I graduated in the 1980’s.

  • EndOfPatience

    Why does Brown accept these toddlers as students? How can anyone take Brown seriously as a university?

    These children can kiss off their future. I MIGHT consider a Brown graduate with a Stem degree. But I wouldn’t consider anyone else, certainly not female, black or Hispanic, simply because of the risk I’d get saddled with one of these dolts.

    Good luck paying off those student loans on a barrista’s wages.

  • thaimoss

    Outstanding column!

  • LeLeMans

    Do any of you get embarrassed by your infantile mewling and generalized quivering gutlessness? You do realize that Putin is on the march, the ChiComs are building airfields in the Spratly’s, President Lightworker is busy facilitating a nuclear-armed terrorist state and oh-by-the-way-we’re-flat-broke and that it is YOU, it is YOUR generation, that is going to have to deal with all of this crap. I’d strongly suggest that you all put on your big boy and big girl pants and buy yourselves a shred of self respect.

  • richard40

    Great article. It gives me hope that not all of our young people are close minded infantile self entitled idiots.

  • wpm327

    I teach high school English and I can say that my students are well aware of their status, i.e., what ‘subjected’ group they associate themselves with. I am ALWAYS aware of my status: a 51 year old white male who {according to some} has an enormous backpack of privilege. When I tell my story, which contains no privileges, trust me, I then am told that I benefit from the invisible ones…*sigh*. I am well aware of the ism’s that are out there. I do not fear that discussion, however, from personal experience, I fear the student who is hurt by my opinions. Of course, I am white and male, so I guess I should not have an opinion on this…no offense.

  • Billy Rubin

    If a lecture gives you a panic attack, you need psychological help, not a room with Play-Doh. I mean, I don’t buy that safe spaces really are about safety and people’s well-being, but IF you are such a delicate flower that people expressing ideas you disagree with gives you a panic attack, this whole safe-space mentality will make your mental problems worse!

  • PJParks

    Kids today are just sissies. They can’t take anything that is hard or punishing. They would all be animal food if left out over night.

  • Kevin Kent

    I’ve never been so proud to be a Virginia Tech alumnus.

  • Howard Treesong

    It goes without saying that a university campus should be safe for students on a physical level. Nobody wants to be physically attacked or abused.

    When it comes to having ones ideas challenged, if you can’t take that why go to a university in the first place? What else is a university for but to challenge ones views of the world?

    The university is for those lucky few who have an opportunity at an education most people in the world just don’t get to have. It is the last step on the way to adulthood and the first step on the way to a life of intellectual challenge. If someone manages to avoid having to question their own thinking, considering ideas they don’t agree with or to argue for or against a point of view, what was the benefit of going to a university? Was it only to stock up on student loan debt?

    I had to swallow at the ‘puppies and Play-Doh’ safe space. Are you seriously telling me they didn’t provide diapers there? Because that would be shocking to me.