Anyone who may have been hoping that the 2014-2015 academic year represented “peak PC”, and that we would have to endure fewer headlines about campus “microaggressions”, “safe spaces”, and “trigger warnings” in 2015-2016, take note: The latest news out of one elite liberal arts college suggests we still have a ways to go. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post has a good piece on the mayhem that ensued after a Wesleyan student, Bryan Stascavage, wrote critically about Black Lives Matter in the school newspaper:
Within 24 hours of publication, students were stealing and reportedly destroying newspapers around campus. In a school cafe, a student screamed at Stascavage through tears, declaring that he had “stripped all agency away from her, made her feel like not a human anymore,” Stascavage told me in a phone interview. Over the following days, he said, others muttered “racist” under their breath as he passed by.
The Argus’s editors published a groveling apology on the paper’s front page. They said they’d “failed the community” by publishing Stascavage’s op-ed without a counterpoint, and said that it “twist[ed] facts.” They promised to make the paper “a safe space for the student of color community.” This self-flagellation proved insufficient; students circulated a petition to defund the newspaper.
The Wesleyan student government obliged, voting to strip funding from the Wesleyan Argus in order to “save paper.” Rampell notes that this case is the latest example of a troubling new trend in campus PC movements:
Typically the censorship threats that student journalists face come from authority figures like these school administrators; peer-on-peer muzzling seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.
One incident does not a trend make, but judging by this controversy, it looks like the wave of PC that caught media attention last year is still going strong; this year’s crop of college students—or at least, a critical mass of them—are seemingly just as eager to silence dissent as their predecessors. There’s no reason to think that campus politics will be any more sane for the foreseeable future. That raises concerns, not only about health of our educational institutions, but about what will happen when today’s coddled students graduate, grow up, and are expected to wield real power.