Proclamations of major university purchases usually entail an expansion of the marketplace of ideas—a new building for the burgeoning theatre program or vital updates to a medical department. But Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio is set to flip that model by purchasing land to shrink the educational landscape.
Otterbein360, the campus newspaper, reports the student government of the liberal arts university is considering a proposal to purchase a public sidewalk to curb First Amendment anti-abortion demonstrations by Created Equal.
This is not the first effort by some to censor Created Equal. It’s just the most bizarre.
Previously, Otterbein students attempted knocking over the group’s signs bearing pictures of preborn humans killed by abortion. One student recruited a “bed sheet brigade” to try to cover the pictures. Another stood in the street in front of Created Equal’s Truth Truck and JumboTV trailer to temporarily stop it from circling the campus.
Preferring censorship to robust debate, this vocal minority is indicative of a generation not only too weak to deal with inconvenient truths but also too willing to punish whistleblowers. They don’t want to see the man behind the curtain, and they’ll blame you if you show him to them. Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt call it “vindictive protectiveness” in “The Coddling of the American Mind.”
The result? Our campuses are turning into a nightmare from Neverland—with children who “won’t grow up” habitually playing the victim card—rather than centers of vigorous discourse. But while such infantile reactions may be amusing, Otterbein’s pro-abortion circle is struggling to maintain momentum. Otterbein360 tweeted during our most recent visit, “Created Equal protesters out number [sic] student protesters in both members and signs.”
But now they think they’ve found the trump card. If free speech precludes kicking out the unpopular messenger, they reason, then buy the ground beneath his feet and dance on the grave of free speech!
The great tragedy is that Otterbein is not an outlier.
Video of Yale students berating the Master of Silliman College Nicholas Christakis went viral last weekend after his wife, a Yale lecturer, sent an email appeal for open-mindedness. Whether or not he will resign under pressure like University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe remains to be seen.
The proverbial tower is becoming an ivory fortress, bent on sheltering rather than exposing students to ideas divergent from the mainstream. But it is not merely gatekeepers sifting out unpopular ideas. Students themselves, who throughout time have railed against “The Man” to fight for free speech, are trading in this American treasure for thirty pieces of silver—or, in the case of Otterbein, thirty feet of concrete.
They do this under the guise of creating “safe spaces” free from reminders of emotional pain (i.e., “triggers”). However, not only has the American Association of University Professors unequivocally denounced “trigger warnings” as a threat to academic freedom, but champion of the Left President Barack Obama recently expressed similar sentiment in Iowa:
I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views . . . Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say. That’s not the way we learn, either.
Students truly suffering from PTSD need treatment, not trigger warnings. Indeed, the latter may preclude veritable healing as students never learn vital skills of dealing with reminders of trauma in healthy ways.
But, as we all know, this is not about “safe spaces” or healing. This is a power play by liberal partisans to censor pictures, ideas, and people they perceive as threatening to their political narrative. Pictures of aborted babies act as a nuclear bomb on attempts to construe abortion as a “women’s right.” And if there’s one thing defenders of false equality cannot tolerate, it is visual evidence of their duplicity.
The good news is not all students are so closed-minded. The bad news is Otterbein might be a foreshadowing of the world to come when these children are given actual power. As members of student government, they may purchase a sidewalk to stop speech they find offensive. What would happen if they were to become members of civil government?
Peter Pan’s incessant “I won’t grow up” mantra may make for pleasant entertainment for our kids, but it is nothing less than horrifying when it becomes the drumbeat of those aspiring to be adults.