Everyone who posts on this board has either been to college–me–or will soon attend it–you. So it behooves all of us to consider the kind of climate that will best facilitate your next level of learning. My friends at theatlantic.com have been kind enough to initiate some of the discussion for us by reporting on culture wars as they unfold on today’s college campuses.
Because we have just been reading Thoreau, it may be a good time for you to decide the kinds of things that seem worth protesting. Are spaces that are safe from micro-aggressions a necessity? Should be privilege free speech over the happiness of other students? How can we ensure that oppressed people have a place that’s conducive to study?
These are difficult and sensitive issues. Is it callous of an administrator to suggest that students need to develop thicker skin–to refrain from hyperbolizing perceived slights? (One college, for instance, recently canceled a production of The Vagina Monologues because of its lack of consideration for transgendered women.)
I’m not a stranger to protests. When my undergraduate program gave a Klu Klux Klansman a venue to speak about his gubernatorial campaign, I helped organize a rally for those outraged by his ideas and policies. I understood the Klansman’s First Amendment right to speak, and I also knew that a college is a marketplace for ideas. I still swell with pride that the Freedom Rally, as we called it, attracted as many people as the event for David Duke did.
The kind of climate that is best to facilitate my level of learning is most definitely not your freezing cold classroom. I think that schools, saying that the air is cold so that they can control the “micro-aggressions” are just cheap and don’t want to pay for heating. A school should be able to allow the best environment, which I think is a chilly room, but the sun shining so you are still warm, but this isn’t everyone’s ideal work space. When some people exercise their freedom of speech, it may not make people comfortable but it still happens and allowing everyone to use their freedom of speech is the best thing for the administration to do. The solution for students is to utilize our freedom of speech and protest. Protest like having a rally against the Klansman or protesting the classroom until the temperature is above 70.