There’s trouble brewing in Chicagoland, and it has nothing to do with gun violence.
The area’s most prestigious schools are having a passive aggressive slap fight over safe spaces. First University of Chicago sent a letter to incoming freshman saying they would not encourage intellectual safe spaces and trigger warnings. Then Northwestern University’s president, Morton Shapiro, fired back in a scathing piece in the Washington Post defending safe spaces and trigger warnings, and accusing their opponents of being out-of-touch rich white people.
I graduated Northwestern in 2015 and am disappointed by my university’s stance. And I find it disingenuous considering what I saw on campus.
First, let’s tackle the safe space debate. Safe spaces are an issue where conservatives and liberals seem to be talking past each other. Conservatives see safe spaces as typified by the Mizzou protest safe space that did not allow in student reporters, causing a professor to call for muscle to bring them out or the trend of using ball pits and puppy imagery to calm down “triggered” students from dangerous ideas. Liberals defend the idea by acting like conservatives are trying to tear down multicultural buildings. But what most people find troubling about the idea of safe spaces is the rejection of challenging ideas and the coddling of young people who are (by law, at least) considered adults.
The editorial board at The Daily Northwestern recently came to their president’s defense, yet chided him for his “ableist” language (Shapiro referred to opponents of safe spaces as “lunatics”) — thus making the problem of political correctness at Northwestern self evident.
The school is so desperate to maintain their “safe space” that they even rescinded a prestigious faculty position to a three star general, because students found him too “pro-America” and “pro-war.”
But does Northwestern really care about safe spaces, or are they using the controversy of the day to take jabs at U Chicago?
During my time at Northwestern I experienced a pretty cold, uncaring corporate vibe from the school. They eschewed controversy — and most importantly liability. Tuition was raised multiple times, while they constantly held pledge drives to satiate their $10 billion
hoarding problem endowment.
Shapiro and Northwestern’s virulent response to U Chicago’s anti-safe-space policy can be boiled down to an inferiority complex. Over the years U Chicago has steadily risen in the US News “National University Rankings” to the number three spot, while Northwestern has been stuck at number 12. Apparently, a policy of rigorous academics and a rejection of coddling appears to be working for U Chicago, and their neighbor up north is getting jealous.
But while Northwestern’s American students get safe spaces, students at Northwestern’s Qatar campus get something a bit different.
Not only is it problematic that the university has financial ties with a country that has a horrible human rights record — and has killed hundreds of migrant laborers erecting a soccer stadium — the school does not even defend its students there from the country’s brutal police.
In 2013, a Saudi journalism student was arrested and beaten up by the police for reporting on a fire at a mall and entering it without permission. When he asked the university for help they responded with “Northwestern University does not help or support criminals.” Sure, the administration at NU Qatar is very corporate and separate from the American one, but its still pretty insane Shapiro would allow it to happen under the university’s name.
So, for a recap, putting students in danger in a corrupt oil kingdom, good safe space. Allowing a three star general to sit on the faculty, bad safe space. The school’s hypocrisy is astounding. Maybe Northwestern needs to get its own affairs in order before taking pot shots at statistically superior universities in their neighborhood.