Students seeking to cocoon themselves in safe spaces and segregated accommodation are being selfish – society can only grow in understanding and acceptance when people of different backgrounds and ideas are thrown together and forced to interact with one another
More depressing news of the return of segregation on American university campuses.
Latest to capitulate to the cult of Identity Politics is Ohio University, which is now introducing an LGBT-only housing community (or “living community”) for self-identifying gay, lesbian and transgender students, as well as their relatives and “allies”.
From the Athens Messenger:
Next year, Ohio University freshmen and sophomores who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans will have the option to reside in a new LGBT living community on the Athens campus. This new living community will be in addition to gender-neutral housing already offered by the university.
According to Delfin Bautista, director of the OU LGBT Center, next year will mark the fourth year for gender-neutral housing options for students. Bautista said the gender neutral housing was made available for not only transsexual students who wanted a safe space, but also siblings, other forms of relatives or even co-ed best friends.
In addition to the gender-neutral housing, Bautista said the university is rolling out a new living community catered to those who identify as LGBT. The living community will be located in Smith House on the South Green, which also is the location for the gender-neutral dorm options.
Bautista said the resident assistant overseeing the new living community will be “developing intentional experiences” for the LGBT members. Those who live in the community will have the opportunity to participate in LGBT-centered programming and will be connected to LGBT resources.
In other words, as soon as they set foot on campus at Ohio University, freshmen students will have the option to immediately find other people who look and think the same way as them, and then live and socialise exclusively with those like-minded people to the exclusion of all others.
This is utterly antithetical to what should be any university’s mission – to turn out resilient, well-rounded and intellectually capable students who are able to flourish in the world, overcoming adversity and achieving success on their own merits. This gender-neutral housing may do many things, but one thing it will absolutely not do is help those who choose to live in it to become more resilient people.
Rather, students living in Ohio University’s segregated LGBT accommodation will be overseen by an RA (resident assistant) who develops “intentional experiences” for the community. In other words, their time at college will be curated for them in such a way that makes this one aspect of their personhood – their sexuality or gender – seem like the overriding and defining feature of their lives. How could it not? Because of this one facet of their identity, these students will be told that they are so different from the wider university community (or so at risk from a malevolent, unsafe outside world) that they need to study, socialise and dwell in seclusion from other students.
But there is another side to this.
How do those from minority groups who choose to hide themselves away in micro-communities of similar people ever hope to bring about a more tolerant and understanding society, when at every turn they seek to shun debate, shut down free speech and even voluntarily segregate themselves away from the wider community?
Nearly all of the positive steps forward our societies have taken to overcome racism, xenophobia and every manner of intolerance were made possible by engagement – by people from minority groups standing up and being an unapologetic, highly visible presence in their communities. That’s why antipathy to immigration is often highest in areas with the lowest number of immigrants, for example. As soon as the immigrants appear in larger numbers (provided they come in good faith and attempt to assimilate) the fears of the original community tend to subside.
Do those early, conspicuous arrivals sometimes face hostility, and even violence? Regrettably, yes. But how much longer would the process of desegregation in America (for example) taken if black students in the 1960s had insisted on living in segregated accommodation?
Civil rights trailblazers like Vivian Malone Jones, one of the first black students to enrol at the University of Alabama back in 1963, faced unprecedented hostility from the governor of the state on downwards – yet Jones did not demand a safe space, despite her physical safety at times being under very real threat.
By contrast, today’s student activists seek refuge in designated Safe Spaces despite never having to experience anything like the genuine lack of safety faced by Jones, and with the benefit of overwhelmingly supportive university administrations falling over themselves to adopt every diversity policy asked of them. With ninety percent of the battle for equality already won, suddenly the social justice warriors are growing thin skins.
Worse still, those students today who want to tell the whole world about their pain and have endless discussions about their own emotions are shamefully neglecting their duty to the next generation of LGBT, queer and ethnic minority students. They are prioritising their own tremulous fear of encountering bigotry or disagreement over the duty which they should feel toward those who will follow in their footsteps.
If minority students cloister themselves away in segregated accommodation and socialise in ethnic-based safe spaces and societies, they fail to help the wider community grow in acceptance. Sure, they may counter that racist and bigoted students should simply mend their ways and change their retrograde opinions without needing to be shown that black, Hispanic, gay, lesbian or trans students are just like them. But human nature is often such that acceptance only comes when something is familiar.
Whether this is fair or not, at some point these students will leave university and enter the real world. Surely, then, living as part of the general community and slogging through any difficult or painful situations which may arise as a result is good for the minority students as well as for the wider community.
But sadly, the social justice warriors of Generation Me Me Me tend not to see things that way. The millennial generation – my generation – is far more interested in talking about what the world owes us (jobs, houses, material possessions) rather than what we owe our communities and our country. Many would rather talk endlessly about their pain and the wrongs which have been inflicted on them than comport themselves with dignity (like previous generations of civil rights heroes) and, through their stoic presence on campus, forge a smoother path for those who come after them.
Many of these student activists would be hugely offended by this accusation – they do not realise that their sit-ins and hunger strikes are inherently selfish acts designed to rectify perceived wrongs against themselves (at best) or to simply signal their own virtue (at worst). Their activism is inwardly focused either on winning perks and concessions for themselves, or seeking to punish those who have caused them offence – in other words, it is a plain old fashioned power play by student activists against the university administrators (who, ironically, were themselves once activist students fighting their own university hierarchies).
The trouble with Safe Space theory – and with Ohio University’s new segregated campus accommodation for LGBT students – is that it focused entirely on the now, with no thought to the future. There is no recognition of the fact that coddling students today both fails to prepare them for life after graduation, and also hinders society’s progress in becoming more accepting of different people. As our hedonistic, therapeutic culture dictates, it is all about feeling better in the here and now, with no thought given to tomorrow.
This is what happens when toxic Identity Politics culture meets a uniquely self-entitled generation concerned with their own personal self-realisation above all else. You can fully expect to see lots more segregated university accommodation springing up in America, with Britain following along in a couple of years.
Not because it will do anything to bring about a more just or equal society – it won’t – but because it makes people feel good in the here and now.
Postscript: It is worth pointing out that Ohio University actively encourages transgender students to live in this segregated accommodation.
Top Image: DavidMixner.com
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