Campus Free Speech

How to Be an Adult 101: The New College Curriculum?

Anguished students are more likely to support forms of censorship.



As noted previously by Lenore Skenazy, one university is so concerned about its students' increasingly fragile mental health conditions that it is prepared to offer something akin to remedial adult education—classes on how to cope with the stresses of adulthood, in other words.

I review the facts in a recent column for The Daily Beast:

Call it what you will—the university likes "resilience" education better—but the substance is the same: Too many university students seem to have missed out on vital conflict-resolution, de-stressing, and life-organizing techniques during their previous 12 years of schooling.

ECU is just one of many universities to struggle with, well, struggling students. Last year, Brown University's student newspaper reported that the campus's student protesters were suffering from panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and failing grades because of the toll their activism was taking on them. Students at Oberlin College told The New Yorker that they were considering dropping out—they were fed up with the college's inability to make accommodations for them due to mental anguish.

The college mental health crisis—if it can be called such—is closely related to the college free speech problem, since depressed students who claim trauma status are the ones most likely to call for institutional policies that place limits on free expression:

Make no mistake: Emotionally coddled, easily offended, mentally traumatized students aren't just a danger to themselves—they are exerting an injurious influence on the overall campus climate. They are the ones calling for what psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes as "vindictive protectiveness," or institutional policies designed to protect students from psychological harm.

These policies are well-known to readers: trigger warnings that require professors to consider whether they are teaching objectionable material; safe spaces that appear on campus whenever a visiting speaker expresses a controversial idea; speech codes that thwart students' efforts to exercise their First Amendment rights; and "Bias Response Teams" that investigate members of campus for saying the wrong things, even inadvertently.

Read my column here.