In Everytown, USA, the local fire department exists to put out fires; it doesn’t exist to extinguish residents’ uncomfortable feelings. The same notion should apply to colleges and universities throughout the nation — as they exist to educate students, not to protect their delicate feelings du jour.
Yet on campuses today, faculty and administrators forget the fundamental fact that by the time students enter college, they’re legally adults — capable of voting, getting married, having a baby, going off to war, buying a car or even buying a handgun. If they are entrusted with all that adult responsibility and more, colleges should stop treating them like babies in need of “safe spaces” anytime a conservative speaker arrives on campus or — gasp — students see or hear something they find upsetting or offensive.
Parents know there’s no “safe space” in life, so why are colleges providing students with a false sense of security and thus not preparing them for life beyond the ivory towers on campus?
As a teenager growing up in the ’80s in suburban New Jersey, I didn’t have a safe space when I visited my beloved father in the hospital after he underwent quintuple bypass surgery. Seeing my best friend looking like a corpse, with a massive scar running down his chest and blood circulating outside his body in a nearby medical machine, was upsetting. There was no safe space in that scary, morgue-like hospital while I pondered whether my dad would live long enough to attend my high school graduation or walk me down the aisle at my wedding someday.
Nor was there was a safe space at his memorial service years later, when I had to muster every ounce of emotional strength to give his eulogy.
Adults with cancer know there’s no safe space while undergoing rounds of radiation or chemotherapy. There isn’t a safe space if you suffer any of life’s difficult challenges, whether it be a divorce, losing a job, getting your heart broken or raising a child with health issues or other special needs.
And certainly, the brave members of our military know there’s no safe space on the battlefield while under enemy fire.
Colleges today think they’re doing a service to students by coddling their feelings when just the opposite is true. They are doing students a grave disservice by bubble-packing students’ emotions, which does nothing to prepare them for the world that awaits them post-graduation — full of hard knocks.
As students, people in my generation were allowed to face adversity, manage emotions and cope — on our own — without the artificial crutch of a “safe space,” which doesn’t exist on Main Street or on airplanes hijacked by terrorists.
The faster colleges and universities go back to treating their adult students like adults the better prepared students will be for real life.
It’s called growing up.