Opinion: Debate over safe spaces, freedom of speech abounds on college campuses
Everett Piper, Ph. D., president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, released a blog post last week accusing college campuses of being “indoctrination camps” riddled with liberal students intent on killing free thought.
His statement appears paradoxical, given that indoctrination is defined as “religious ideas, when you’re talking about a religious environment that doesn’t let you question or criticize those beliefs,” and Oklahoma Wesleyan University’s official slogan is “Impacting culture with the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
“The contemporary university is no longer known for pursuing truth, but rather for celebrating tolerance,” Piper wrote. “Campuses are now bastions of speech codes rather than bulwarks of free speech.”
Piper poses as an advocate for free speech but condemns those whose ideas differ from his own.
In an earlier blog post entitled “Trumping Morality,” Piper writes, “Anyone who is pro-abortion is not on my side. Anyone who brags of his sexual history with multiple women is not on my side. Anyone who believes the government can wrest control of the definition of marriage from the church is not on my side.”
Piper’s controversial blog posts have been making headlines since he came out with “This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!” in response to a student who complained to Piper he felt victimized by a sermon put on by his university in 2015.
“The bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt,” Piper wrote. “Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a ‘safe place,’ but rather, a place to learn.”
The University of Chicago sent a similar message when they mailed a letter to the class of 2020 stating its campus welcomes debate, discussion and disagreement.
“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings,” the letter stated. “We do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”
The University of Chicago’s “welcome letter” and Piper’s post have sparked a nationwide debate over the issue of safe spaces and trigger warnings on campuses around the nation.
Cameron Okeke, a 2015 graduate of the University of Chicago, wrote an article published on Vox called “I’m a black UChicago graduate. Safe spaces got me through college,” in which he states that he “grew increasingly dissatisfied with the university’s willful ignorance of students’ concerns, especially students of color.”
Similarly, a group of Princeton University students launched the “snowflake rebellion” in which they protested that the campus should require teacher sensitivity training and strive to be politically correct.
It is evident from the mixed emotions encircling this issue that safe spaces on campuses have both positive and negative effects. I personally believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and should be allowed to voice them when they feel the need to do so.
Last semester, I engaged in a heated argument with a young man regarding the anti-abortion protest that took place in the South Oval. As much as his opinions upset me, I thought back to a speech by author J.K. Rowling at the 2016 PEN Literary Gala, regarding Donald Trump: “His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot.”