Northwestern Univ. President Calls Those Who Decry Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings 'Lunatics'

Northwestern Univ. President Calls Those Who Decry Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings 'Lunatics'
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The president of Northwestern University told students on Monday that anyone who opposes “trigger warnings” or who ridicules the pain of those “microaggressed” is an “idiot” and a “lunatic.”

In his convocation address on Monday, NU President Morton Schapiro took a firm stance against censorship, but said he disagreed with University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison, who recently told first-year students they should not expect “safe spaces” in which to escape from ideas that make them uncomfortable.

“Schapiro does not take kindly to uncomfortable ideas,” notes the Weekly Standard’s Alice B. Lloyd:

 Author of many a pro-“safe space” op-ed, he suggests he’ll also use his day job as a platform to promote the code of campus political correctness, now that the semester’s begun.

“The people who decry safe spaces do it from their segregated housing places, from their jobs without diversity — they do it from their country clubs,” Schapiro said. “It just drives me nuts.”

[…]Calling people who deny the existence of microaggressions “idiots,” Schapiro said he clearly remembers every microaggression he has experienced.

Microaggressions “cut you to the core” and aren’t easily forgotten, he said.

Schapiro also criticized those who “conflate” the use of trigger warnings with undermining the First Amendment, saying students should be warned about potentially traumatic content, such as the Holocaust or lynching of black people.

“If they say that … you shouldn’t be warned to prepare yourself psychologically for that, that somehow that’s coddling, those people are lunatics,” Schapiro said.


Never mind that publicly calling people who disagree with you on safe spaces “lunatics” could be seen as  a “microaggression” or even a “macroaggression.”

Schapiro’s choice of words is interesting: “Somehow that’s coddling,” he said. He may have been referring to Jonathan David Haidt, a social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Haidt is a fierce opponent of what he calls “the victimhood culture” that is so rampant on college campuses these days.

He gave a talk to freshman students in October of 2015 in which he ran through “three sets of ancient ideas that many modern ‘coddling’ universities (and high schools) violate, and I imagined what a university would look like if it was built on ancient wisdom instead.”

One of the things that most bothers me about the modern “victimhood culture” of microaggressions, trigger warnings, and safe spaces is how directly it flies in the face of the world’s greatest wisdom, which I reviewed in The Happiness Hypothesis. For example, chapter 7 is about the uses of adversity: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” as Nietszche (sic) put it. Mencius explained the idea more fully in the 3rd century BCE: “When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, […and] place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent.”

Nasim Taleb nailed the idea with his recent book “Anti-Fragile.” A carton of eggs is fragile, so you’d better handle it with care. But many things in our world are anti-fragile: they are systems that increase in capability, resilience, or robustness as a result of mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures. The immune system is anti-fragile: If you protect your kids from dirt and germs, you’ll weaken their immune system and set them up for more autoimmune diseases. Similarly children and teenagers are anti-fragile. If you protect their feelings with trigger warnings, safe spaces, and micro-aggression training for everyone in the community, you weaken them, you make them fragile.

In the video, he pretended to be admissions officers from the two universities, “Strengthen U” and “Coddle U,” trying to recruit high school students to apply.