Disclaimer: my views in no way represent neither the US Air Force nor the USAF Academy.
I’m not a huge fan of the idea of colleges being “safe spaces” or having “trigger warnings.” I do go to a university (a military academy) that is literally the opposite of a safe space, considering I was tear gassed in my first few weeks and yelled at in my first few minutes. (I also chose this, and am in no way complaining.)
But I don’t think that college should have to be a safe space. The idea of them has been warped and twisted into something that is over the top now. When I first arrived and got to know my classmates, I found people with radically different backgrounds from my own. There are people from 100-person towns in Kansas sharing a room with someone from New York City. The international cadets bring an even more diverse view than the American cadets. And there have been some uncomfortable times; our views have clashed. I’m so very different from the small-town football player from Idaho. There are always going to be times when uncomfortable learning is the only way to carry on. If you refuse to learn, how are you ever going to grow?
I believe that people should have a space special to them and their culture or beliefs. A place they are comfortable and have an inclusive community for themselves. But why do we have to put a “trigger warning” on everything? I guess this is where I disagree. College is literally the last place to be coddled or hidden from other views. U of Chicago just released a letter saying they committing to no safe spaces and instead emphasizing the school’s commitment to free speech. Even if that speech makes some students upset or uncomfortable. But that’s the point! Controversy comes up all the time, and there’s no going around it. Being hypersensitive is not going to produce free-thinking, strong willed adults ready to work and earn their own. It’s going to instead stunt growth. Theirs is no way to learn about the world without coming into contact with what challenges your beliefs or makes you uneasy. But that’s how you find out about different viewpoints. Do I enjoy listening to classmates wax eloquent on views that I personally find highly offensive? No, but I listen because I want to understand. And argue since I like arguing.
Free speech and intellectual diversity on college campuses are incredibly important,as is political correctness when the content warrants it. But trigger warnings are taking that away. We’re too afraid of making a few uncomfortable, so we limit the majority in what they can do. There are times when we need them, such as victims not wanting to be confronted with everything that they’ve went through and that’s completely valid. But catering to a fear of oversensitive students and helping them avoid the things they may fear is misguided. Psychologists treat anxiety disorders and phobias through exposing the person. Avoiding, repressing and shoving it all down is the wrong way to go about this. We presume fragility of the students instead of strength. Sometimes, we need to assume strength in order to get through.