January 25, 2018 by gregrabidoux2013
Last night one of my old alma maters, the University of Connecticut (UCONN) played host to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. Now, Mr. Shapiro, who will never be confused with say some fire-breathing, far right fanatic offered his take on a number of contemporary, divisive issues. Immigration (we need less not more), Russian Collusion (there is no evidence of any collusion, never will be), Sanctuary cities (only ones getting protection are MS-13 gang members and criminals), Government shutdown (no way to make policy).
Certainly, not overwhelmingly popular stances and I can see where there would be and is plenty of room for differences of opinion.
On the other hand, access to his speech was restricted to a small auditorium which housed a maximum of 500 seats all of which were filled. This for a campus of well over 25,000 students. reportedly, several hundred more students were denied access and non-students (though residents of CT, were not allowed to attend even when there were seats available). Since it is a tax-payer supported, public university, campus speakers are nearly, always open to the public-at-large.
Now, while UCONN and UC-Berkeley both share a U and a C, they won’t be confused for each other, both for their politics and activism. But, they do share something else-being part of a growing trend of state and public universities and colleges who are using the real or simply perceived threat of violent protests and anti-free speech sentiment to either flatly refuse truly diverse speakers or restrict their access as to marginalize their views and supporters. UC-Berkely, NYU, USC, UCLA, Penn State, UNC, UT-Austin, UMASS, the list goes on and on.
In short, if you are offended by even the thought of having to hear an opposing view or even know that somewhere at some point there may be a speaker in campus with whom you disagree then you are empowered even encouarged to shut him or her down with a pre-emptive threat of violence and “outrage.”
If, that doesn’t work then university officials citing security concerns can quarantine quarrelsome and controversial (or even simply those not in the majority) speakers far, far away from your safe, insulated and harmonious “life-bubble.
UCONN even made sure that their Husky students circa 2018 were aware that if “anyone is offended by or concerned by or has feelings of confusion or hurtful thoughts due to the presence of speaker Mr. Shapiro,” then they should simply make use of the many diversity and counseling services available to them on campus. There were trauma teams on stand by if students had panic attacks and extreme anxiety.
In other words, did the mean and disagreeable Mr. Shapiro say something that hurt your feelings? Challenged your world view of things? Did he not fully embrace your personal sentiments on every issue of the day? Then, please, accept our apologies, our free counseling and therapy and here, have a cookie on the way out. There, that ought to prepare you for the real world of ISIS, N. Korea and the global job market.
Now, let’s exhale for a moment and consider what the supposed and traditional role of a university a place of academics has always been to its students. A marketplace of ideas, a place where students can and should explore a diversity of views, perspectives and choices. A place where you can and should challenge your mind, your world views by engaging in civil, respectful discourse with fellow students, faculty and invited guests and speakers alike.
Tell me, does a sword get forged into tungsten steel by the sweet sonnets of sameness or by the heat of an unforgiving fire?
Listen, whether the speaker is Ben Shapiro or say, Anita Hill, who by the way was a recent UCONN invitee and was granted a large auditorium open to the public, the rules should and must be the same. But what seems to be occurring on large and small universities across our nation is that well organized protests groups, often willing to and engaging in violence like the Antifas, simply shut-down any and all forms of diverse speakers, scholars and thinkers. All in the name of protecting diversity of course.
Such violence or even the threat of violence in response to fellow humans expressing themselves with words then either forces or in some case conveniently allows university leaders to cite the cost of undertaking security and voila, no more having to hear views other than your own.
I have heard students at various campuses argue, in effect, that “they” pay too much for tuition to have to “put up” with offensive speakers they don’t want on “their” campus. While, in most cases it may be their parents or Fannie Mae footing the bill, I get it. Sort of like knowing what you want to buy, going into a store and still having to put up with that pushy, abrasive vacuum salesperson. Geez, who wants that?
Of course, there is where my concern lies. Rather than being taught to keep an open, ever growing mind where learning is truly a priority, are universities signaling that this once noble endeavor is nonsense? Are universities really saying, “hey, come here, and we will protect, insulate and reinforce your already pre-conceived world view at all costs?” Your mind and sense of self will never be forced to grow, stretch, accept challenges or be questioned. Ever.
There. Isn’t that better? If that offended any of you we have complimentary counseling.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I am no protector of bullies and I have and certainly will always be an advocate of diversity. However, I get real nervous when views, even those I may agree with, are forced fed to all or entombed within a wall of intolerance, fear and violence. Sorry, but I still believe that to have the courage of your convictions is to allow, even encourage others to disagree. I mean, the UCONN Husky women’s basketball team could simply “say” they are the best and never be forced to prove it in the arena of competition but I bet it means a lot more to them when they have to actually compete and then they beat their opponents fair and square. UCONN 93, Memphis 36. Sorry, Memphis.
No, the greatest threat to free speech and the wonderful benefits which flow therefrom is not from having to hear views other than your own. It is from censorship due to real or perceived threats from groups who are intolerant of actual diversity of thought and perspective.
And I grow increasingly concerned that we are, with perhaps, the best of intentions, raising and cultivating the next generation of leaders to be absolutely ill-equipped to deal with or positively confront all forms of bullies.
Maybe it is time to burst that “life-bubble” after all. before it’s too late.