Ash: Victimhood, over-sensitivity have become a campus culture

CJ Ash

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or editorial board.

Hundreds gathered for peaceful protest in light of the recent presidential election at Civic Center Park for the Peace and Solidarity Rally hosted by Fort Collins for Progress. (Brooke Buchan l Collegian)

There is a leftist hysteria on American campuses. This is political correctness gone amuck, and is the furthest possible perversion of the idea of correctness. 

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There is a growing culture of victimhood. Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning describe this culture, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense. Instead of redressing issues on their own, individuals (students in particular) are choosing to be victims.

Some universities across America even postponed exams for students traumatized by President Trump’s election.

Over-sensitivity and perceived victimization appears to be a path to reward and virtue. The more someone feels victimized, the more society as a whole is expected to both sympathize with that person and give them what they want. 

This over-sensitivity culture is taking over American campuses, as society now sees students demand safe spaces and trigger warnings. Safe spaces create a place where students are safe not just physically, but emotionally and ideologically.

Wellesley University, ranked #2 in the nation for women and one of the top Liberal Arts colleges in the nation, says this in their diversity policy:”There is no greater benefit to one’s intellectual and social development than the forthright engagement with and exploration of unfamiliar viewpoints and experiences”. 

Colorado State University says, as part of their mission statement: ” We honor the inherent dignity of all people within an environment where we are committed to freedom of expression, critical discourse, and the advancement of knowledge.” 

The role of a university should be to challenge students emotionally and ideologically, as only adversity breeds strength. Hiding students from opposing viewpoints is like taking all of the weights and machines out of the gym and expecting student athletes to get the same kind of workout. 

In speaking of his own experience as a student, former President Obama echoed this when he said, “to make you a better citizen; to help you to evaluate information; to help you make your way through the world; to help you be more creative. The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide, and people are having arguments, and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time, people learn from each other, because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.” 

Scott Greer, writer for the daily caller, says it this way, “American universities were once the cultivators of the nation’s brightest minds, the gateway to the middle class, and forums for the exchange of ideas and innovations,” his book begins. “Now students can’t tolerate chalk marks in support of a certain presidential candidate.” 

A great example of this over-sensitivity at Colorado State University can be seen students reactions to the ‘Free Speech Wall.’ Some students responded destructively by stomping, stealing, and even stabbing the boxes. 

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There exists an argument that the impeachment and removal of former ASCSU President Josh Silva began in response to his conservative values. A letter from the editorial board of the Collegian states that, because Silva was backed by the Conservative Interest Group, his Presidency was seen as a “major loss for diversity” by Senator Nordstrom and other liberal-leaning Senators. 

It’s worse in England, as the King’s College London Students’ Union hired “safe space marshals” to attend events,be ready to act if someone expresses an opinion deemed “offensive,” and reserve the right to cancel that event or speakers’ speech. 

But, not everyone in academia agrees that micro-aggressions are a problem. Some scholars have pushed forward the idea that victims of micro-aggressions are pathologically overly sensitive . Terms like “snowflake” became popular to describe someone as overly sensitive and fragile, but now students are claiming that the term damages their mental health. Whatever happened to sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?

Free speech is the most important principle in our nation, hence why it is included in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights. This right to free expression has very few limits: there is no hate speech exception, there is no micro-aggression exception, there’s no safe space exception.

One potential solution to this problem, suggested by Dennis Prager, is gratitude: “Here’s a rule of life: ingratitude guarantees unhappiness. It is as simple as that. There isn’t an ungrateful happy person on Earth. And there isn’t an ungrateful good person on Earth.” 

Yes, maybe, life has handed out some unfortunate circumstances, situations and events. As a victim of a decade of intense bullying, I can attest to this. 

However, as activist Ben Shapiro said, “You cannot fix past injustices with current injustices. The only way to fix past injustices is with individual freedom.” 

Every student on campus has the freedom to be either an ungrateful victim or a successful and grateful citizen. Everyone has the right to complain and to make excuses, but should they? 

Collegian opinion reporter CJ Ash can be reached a letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @Cee_Jay_Ash