Reconsider! Are College Students Really Demanding ‘the Right to be Comfortable’?

Originally published on Medium, see Reconsider! here.

There is an empathy gap with how many academics and others view the issues happening on college campuses today.

Take a step back and notice that many participants of these movements are people of color, especially women of color, trans and gender-non-conforming people, etc. Their experience is not your experience. Sometimes, in an attempt to be empathetic, we try to rephrase or pigeon-hole another person’s experiences in terms that we understand. We think of times we’ve been ‘uncomfortable’, feel like those times were times of growth, and dismiss the younger generation’s demand as over-sensitive.

Consider that the types of ‘discomfort’ (as detractors call it) are types that you have never experienced, and occur in contexts you have never been through.

A section of our students today feel invisible, invalid, unheard. They see that people who do not have their experiences are likely to dismiss them. They are demanding some kind of acknowledgement and some kind of consideration. The answer is not necessarily a “coddling” of the American mind, Rani Neutill, a female professor of color, describes her failed attempt at using trigger warnings in the classroom.

The answer to the premise is still in flux. This is a topic of debate in which everyone is welcome to contribute. A lot of people, however, seem to reject the premise. I wish you would reconsider at least once before doing so.

Things to consider:

– with large movements of anything, you will see a mob mentality; I need not condone specific inappropriate behaviors to agree with their demands — I do not think they don’t invalidate their cause.
– look up “In-group favoritism” and “Out-group homogeneity” — there is a studied empathy gap with groups we whose experiences we are outsiders to. Tread carefully, before suggesting an out-group member is being oversensitive.

This is not about one e-mail, as Aaron Lewis writes in “What’s Really Going On at Yale”. Many students feel invalidated and unheard, and view the university’s response as silencing and invalidating. They want to be heard and they want answers. The solution is not yet settled! Do not yell “censorship!” and deny the existence of the problem. Join the conversation: after reading one article on The Atlantic about coddling, check out first-hand the perspectives of those protesting, for example, by reading something at DOWN at Yale.

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