Tales From The Safe Space, Part 49 – Chicago Universities Are Raising A Generation Of Infantilised Young Adults

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Students who are offered Play Doh and “therapy horses” to help them make it through university will be cannon fodder in an unforgiving, competitive global labour market

At this point we are used to seeing outrageous stories of overbearing, coddling universities going to extraordinary lengths to teach the young adults studying on their campuses like delicate, helpless infants.

But the Chicago Tribune has done quite a job in summarising all of the instances of infantilisation-posing-as-stress-management taking place at institutions in and around the city. And the extent of the trend is quite shocking to behold.

Some excerpts:

Sephanie Delgado can feel the stress of her to-do list as she works to finish the semester at Roosevelt University: three essays, a presentation and exams.

To escape the pressure, the 20-year-old college junior, who also works as a restaurant cashier to help pay for school, sculpted a chunk of blue Play-Doh into Popplio, a Pokemon character. She was at a table next to other students who colored and decorated cookies before two miniature therapy horses wearing sneakers trotted into the room Wednesday for the university’s De-Stress Fest.

“I know I still have to do all that work, but coming here I’m able to take some time off to hang out with friends, have fun and empty my mind for a little bit,” said Delgado, who lives on the Southwest Side. “It’s like a refresh. My mind is nice and clear so when I go to start my homework, I’m well focused.”

As the semester nears its end — and students pull all-nighters to cram for exams, type papers and finish projects that weigh heavily on final grades — colleges in the Chicago area are taking steps to help students manage stress. It’s part of a broader approach to focus on students’ mental health and expand proactive outreach efforts instead of waiting for students to seek help. Local schools this week are offering activities ranging from animal visits at Roosevelt to a bubble-wrapped room at the University of Illinois at Chicago to the long-standing tradition of a stress-busting primal scream at Northwestern University.

More:

At Northwestern, “because of the hectic academic pace that exists here, it is stressful and very pressure-packed,” university spokesman Alan Cubbage said.

Students can blow off steam with a visit from miniature horses Friday and release their frustration through a campuswide scream, in which students let out a collective yell at 9 p.m. Sunday before finals week. Next week, a number of activities such as Lego building, board games, midnight coffee breaks and late-night breakfast are planned for exam relief.

More:

The series of events UIC hosts during finals week helps junior Liz Huss manage stress in a healthful way.

Students got a visit from comfort dogs Wednesday and are invited next week to pop bubble wrap at the student center, get chair massages, do candlelight yoga and leave notes of encouragement for fellow students.

“I like to take 10, 15, 20 minutes to rejuvenate, reflect and relax, and these events really help with that,” said Huss, an accounting major.

I’m sure that the large professional services firm that she may one day seek to join will be more than happy to bend over backwards to accommodate Liz Huss’s artificially-instilled need to reach for the soothing presence of a “comfort dog” whenever the going gets tough.

More:

For Andersonville resident Rob Chesler, a junior at Roosevelt, stress can motivate him to get his work done. But he also welcomed the distraction of the De-Stress Fest, during which he took a selfie with Lunar, the oldest miniature horse from the Barrington-based nonprofit Mane in Heaven.

“If you’re living in this world of hard work every second of every hour of your life, then you’re not going to be happy and you’re just going to be all about work,” he said. “If you have little horses every now and then, you have moments where you can just breathe and enjoy life.”

Little horses for everyone!

Fortunately there are also voices of sanity:

Clay Routledge, psychology professor at North Dakota State University, believes universities should be promoting psychological strength and resilience, not coddling students.

“I’m not ignorant to the fact there are vulnerable students that need services,” he said. “I’m not against that at all. My criticism is: Are we promoting more broadly a culture of sensitivity and victimhood than we need to do?”

Many colleges and universities are becoming more than educational institutions and overreaching by not letting students figure things out on their own, he said.

“We need to promote toughness and strength, and we know from decades of research that humans are extremely resilient,” Routledge said. “You have to have real stressors in life. You have to fail. You have to be embarrassed and you have to face situations where you’re wrong and you’re challenged — and you’ll be strong as a result.”

A rare voice arguing for building resilience the way that university has done for decades, if not centuries – focusing on the academia, not seeking to micromanage every moment of each student’s pastoral experience on campus, and letting them grow through trial, error and experience. Expect Professor Clay Routledge to be blacklisted by the social justice / identity politics cultists at his university and drummed out of his job any day now.

I have always found American universities to be slightly odd places. Having spent a reasonable amount of time on various campuses in the Mid-West, I have always been struck by the way that universities do not treat their students like autonomous adults to the extent that one might expect in Britain.

Despite eye-wateringly high tuition and accommodation costs, undergraduates are usually expected to share a small room with a roommate, at least in their first year, an almost unheard-of indignity for British students (who would probably feel the same way about this as Americans would feel about staying in one of the NHS’s communal hospital wards rather than having a private room of their own). American universities often see fit to correspond with the parents of students as though they are still school children rather than adults over the age of eighteen, old enough to wear the uniform and fight for their country (though not old enough to drink). These, and many other odd customs, long predate the social justice and identity politics craze which has infected Western academia.

But while customs and practices such as these treat students as though they are not quite yet fully-grown adults, the new trend for safe spaces and infantilising activities masquerading as “stress relief” are of a different order because they effectively serve to stunt any further emotional growth, making it harder for students to ever become autonomous, successful adults.

Making an eighteen-year-old incurring $60,000 of annual student debt sleep three yards away from a roommate is one thing. Treating students as though they are fragile and unresilient children who need bubble wrap, puppy videos and therapy horses to make it through the academic year effectively becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, ensuring that they enter the world utterly unprepared to function in a society and labour market which does not put their feelings and emotional health on a pedestal.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt joked about this when he compared two fictional universities – Strengthen University and Coddle University – in a lecture / college recruitment pitch given to high school seniors. But more and more, Haidt’s send-up of Coddle University is coming to pass and being made real on campuses across America, and in Britain too:

We are based on a very simple psychology which is that people are fragile. People are so easily hurt. Anything that upsets you could trigger trauma, repressed trauma, unrepressed trauma, trauma that you somehow put up there in the closet and forgot to take – there’s trauma all over your mind and your memory. And we don’t want to trigger your trauma. That could damage you.

And this is especially true for members of the six protected classes [women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, differently abled, and Native Americans]. If you are a member of one of the six marginalised and oppressed groups you are especially vulnerable. You’ve been traumatised and oppressed your whole lives. Microaggression theory teaches us that when people repeatedly cut these little nicks, these little insults, these little exclusions, they don’t develop calluses, they bleed to death. And so we will not let you be cut while you are at Coddle. We will protect you. Now don’t try to do it yourself, that’s very dangerous. WE will protect YOU from aggression.

At Coddle University we offer access to therapists 24/7. Just dial 811 from any phone, or we have this new feature – just raise three fingers, go like this [he gestures] and we have sensors all around campus, go like this and a therapist will be airlifted right into you.

University is supposed to be stressful. Balancing the academic workload and social events and newfound freedom away from the family home is supposed to develop key skills required to navigate the world as an independent adult later in life. Shipping in a bunch of therapy horses onto campus is not “offer[ing] students opportunities to learn self-care”, as one University of Missouri jobsworth claims, because it simulates an environment which will not exist outside of the university campus.

There are no therapy horses laid on for employees in the average workplace. Teaching students to survive daily stress by reaching for Play Doh and therapy animals is like training an astronaut to undertake spacewalks while failing to simulate the essential conditions of weightlessness and limited oxygen supply, and every bit as likely to lead to disaster.

But still the universities teach this nonsense and lay on these extravagant, infantilising services, unaware or unconcerned that they are setting their students up for failure the moment they set foot off campus.

 

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Safe Space Notice - 2

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Could Social Justice Warriors Hand Donald Trump The Election?

Social Justice Warriors for Trump!

For those who insist that all of this concern over the resurgent authoritarianism and intolerance for free speech on our university campuses is a gross right-wing overreaction to harmless student activism, I present Donald Trump’s aborted rallies in Chicago and St. Louis yesterday.

Because this kind of mob rule – and the populist pro-Trump backlash which it will now inevitably generate – is the inevitable consequence of the on-campus infantilisation of students and their disregard for freedom of speech leaching out into wider society.

For context, from the unimpeachably impartial Guardian:

A Donald Trump rally in Chicago had to be called off on Friday evening amid scenes of violence and chaos unparalleled in the recent history of American political campaigning.

The scrapping of the Republican frontrunner’s appearance due to what his campaign cited as “safety concerns” led to uproar and fights inside the University of Illinois Chicago Pavilion and in the streets outside.

Scuffles broke out between Trump supporters, protesters and police, and a number of arrests were made, including of at least one reporter. As the mayhem took hold, Trump was reduced to complaining about the situation on the air, telling MSNBC: “It’s sad when you can’t have a rally. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?”

Having successfully forced the closure of the rally, the protesters were quick to gloat about how they had successfully halted the campaign rally of a man who (no matter how ignorant and odious some of his policies may be) is still a major presidential candidate whose ideas and pronouncements need to be heard and debated.

Not caring in the slightest that their actions served to suppress (and therefore fuel) bad ideas, the protesters celebrated their success:

Then it was announced that Trump wasn’t coming – and the arena erupted into chaos.

College students shouted “We shut it down” while loyal supporters of the Republican frontrunner shouted “We want Trump”.

Fights and scuffles broke out as protesters swapped blows with Trump supporters and activists eager to celebrate their apparent victory shouted “Bernie, Bernie” and “Si se puede” (“Yes we can”), while waving signs supporting the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

To be clear, when all of the overwrought wailing about Donald Trump bringing Nazism back to America is set aside: what we witnessed yesterday was the first time in recent history when the campaign rally of a major presidential candidate had to be called off because of the threat of violence from protesters – people who believed that their fundamental disagreement with the candidate on policy and rhetoric gave them the right to prevent those ideas being expressed in public.

Rod Dreher’s analysis of the whole sorry situation is spot-on:

These left-wing demonstrators tried to shut down an American presidential candidate’s speech during the campaign — and they succeeded, through an implicit threat of violence. People who support Trump drove hours to hear him talk, and they were denied their constitutional rights by left-wing hotheads who believe that they are so righteous that they don’t have to observe basic civility. You come to a Trump rally and you start flipping people off? You should not be surprised if you get a sock in the face.

What happened tonight in Chicago is why we need Trump, as obnoxious as he is, to keep going. I am not a Trump supporter, and I reject much of his rhetoric. But he has a right to give a speech, even an obnoxious speech, without it being interrupted by demonstrators. All of us do. Trump is revealing how impossible it is to have a normal democracy with the activist left, who think their crying need for “safe spaces” gives them the right to silence their opponents.

No. This political correctness needs to be opposed, and it needs to be opposed with force. I don’t know why the police couldn’t handle this situation, but they had better be on it in the future, because many Americans will not stand for this. What those protesters have done tonight is create a lot more Trump voters out of people who are sick and tired of privileged leftists using thug tactics to silence their opponents.

Like Dreher, I do not agree with Donald Trump on most issues and have no wish to see him and his half-baked, reactionary political ideas catapulted to the White House. But also like Dreher, when I see the virtue-signalling More Moral Than Thou anti-Trump protesters gloating about how they shut down an exercise in democracy, it gets my hackles up and I inch ever closer to empathising with Trump supporters.

Dreher rightly goes on to insist that he would feel just the same were it right-wing protesters trying to shut down a Clinton or Sanders rally:

Protest all you want, but do it outside the venue, or silently inside. Do not silence the speaker, because if you do that, you legitimize your opponents trying to silence the speakers from your side. Thuggish, illiberal tactics like this from the left call forth the same kind of thing from the right. When right-wing white nationalist types show up and make trouble at Democratic rallies, or BLM rallies, and get them cancelled, on what grounds will you on the left have to complain?

For me, it’s all about the mob. I despise the mob. Any mob, which I define as a crowd that acts in force to silence people by intimidation or actual violence. We have seen over the past few months how left-wing mobs on college campuses have gotten away with outrageous things, because men and women in authority on those campuses lacked the guts to stand up for the liberal civic order.

[..] This has gone too far. When an American presidential candidate has to cancel his rally in a major city because protesters have made it too dangerous, we have a serious problem in this country. It’s infuriating. This is not America. Those disruptive protesters need to be made to understand that this is not how America works.

Is all of this enough to push Donald Trump over the finishing line in a presidential contest against Hillary Clinton or (less likely) Bernie Sanders? It remains unlikely – although in a political climate where Sanders is even competitive and Jeremy Corbyn leads the Labour Party in Britain, nobody can make cast-iron political predictions.

But at the same time, Dreher is right – those scenes from Chicago and St. Louis last night, beamed into millions American homes on the nightly news, will have created thousands more Trump supporters. Many existing Trump fans will be hardened in their resolve to vote for him, if only to give the preening liberal “fascists” a good kicking, while other wavering conservatives will be moved to take the plunge and come out as Trump supporters.

And this is why what is happening today in our schools and universities really does matter, and is not some fringe right-wing obsession.

Because these violent protests at Donald Trump rallies are what happens when a generation of young people – and looking at the protesters, the ones causing the most violence and disruption on the anti-Trump side are overwhelmingly young – are raised to believe that they have the right never to have to hear a contrary idea or an offensive opinion. This is what happens when young and impressionable minds are taught that if they do not like something, or it it hurts their feelings, that they are a “victim” and have the right to suppress the speech or behaviour to which they object by any means necessary.

Inside the sterilised bubble of campus life, these protesters would make loud and angry appeals to a higher authority (the university administration) to come crashing down on the person or people saying things that upset them. But in real life there is no Student Welfare Office or malleable university hierarchy to bend into submission. There are only other adults, to be intimidated with the threat of force.

Again: this blog has no time at all for Donald Trump. But you don’t need to support the man’s presidential bid to recognise that if the pre-emptive shutting down of his campaign rallies by political opponents continues, American democracy will suffer. Either it will feed into a persecution complex narrative which fires up Trump’s supporters and carries him to victory, or (far more likely) it will hobble his candidacy at the expense of creating massive resentment from his supporters, and merely burying his ideas rather than properly debating and discrediting them.

The inability of the Social Justice Warrior to think in public – to use their words rather than their fists, to debate using their minds rather than vandalise with their hands – means that the threat of violence is one of their only remaining weapons.

And now, together with the American Right – whose inability to neutralise Trump with a compelling mainstream conservative message is equally at fault – the virtue-signalling Left must shoulder their portion of the blame for actively fuelling the Donald Trump juggernaut.

 

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When Buildings Attack

Apparently the glass panes of the new curved skyscraper under construction at 20 Fenchurch Street – nicknamed the “Walkie Talkie” – are reflecting and concentrating light in a rather unfortunate way so as to superheat and melt objects on the street.

20 Fenchurch Street. Image by AFP/Getty.
20 Fenchurch Street. Image by AFP/Getty.

The Telegraph reports that a temporary scaffold and sun screen has been erected over the affected portion of the street, after rays reflected by the building were reported to have melted plastic components of a Jaguar car parked in a nearby parking bay, and enabled a man to fry an egg on the pavement:

Business owners in Eastcheap say the £200 million project has blistered paintwork, caused tiles to smash and singed fabric. A motorist has also said the intense heat melted part of his Jaguar.

Developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf said the screen was designed to prevent the “phenomenon”, caused by the current elevation of the sun in the sky, from taking place.

Of course, The Daily Mash have their own amusing take on the story:

Baker Tom Logan said: “I’ve long suspected that London was trying to kill me, with the cumulative effects of pollution, stress and a generally harrowing atmosphere.

“Oh well. I suppose psychotic buildings firing lethal beams of pure energy is another thing we’ll have to get used to, like the congestion charge and parking permits.”

Speaking via a mouth-like orifice in the Gherkin, London said: “I shall also be using flying manhole covers to decapitate you. And look out for London Bridge turning into a giant metal snake with sewage-dripping fangs.”

It can certainly feel that way sometimes.

And finally, The Guardian reports that there are many other buildings around the world that cause similar problems:

Some of the burnished stainless steel panels of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, which opened in 2003, had to be sanded down to prevent drivers being blinded by the glare, and pedestrians fried by pavement hotspots that reached 60C. Residents across the street also threatened legal action over their sky-high air-conditioning costs.

The impact of buildings is by no means confined to heat and light. Skyscrapers with curved walls (notably in Chicago) have been known to accumulate large quantities of snow and ice on their surfaces before dumping them without warning on unsuspecting pedestrians below.

Beware when walking beneath the Chase Tower, Chicago in winter.
Beware when walking beneath the Chase Tower, Chicago in winter.

The only sensible conclusion to draw from all of this – you are not safe on your morning commute. Beware!

Bad Journalism Award

You know how it is when you read an article that is just so weak, so clearly living in a hermetically-sealed bubble of similar opinions, so insulated from opposing viewpoints, so grandiose in its self-righteous assuredness and yet so utterly wrong that it makes you just want to issue a point-by-point rebuttal of every stupid thing that the author committed to print (hopefully at this point you are not nodding and thinking “yes, that would be the last article I read here…)?
Well, Charles Hurt, writing in The Washington Times, stepped up to the challenge and magnificently managed to push all of my buttons with his piece entitled “Obama’s South Side Chicago Thuggery” (yes). So here you are, Charles: this is why you are wrong. From the top:

Now that we know just what President Obama thinks of people who succeed in business, it is no wonder that the economy is so much in the crapper. In his desperation to avoid any discussion of his own disastrous handling of the economy, Mr. Obama announced last week what he thinks of the struggling spark plugs of commerce: They are a bunch of felons.

Of course, he did not come right out and directly say that himself, because that would risk drawing renewed questions about whether he is actually an American with the slightest whiff of respect for private industry and ingenuity that defines America.

The economy being “in the crapper”, of course, is all Obama’s fault. Nothing to do with the huge credit crisis and other systemic and structural flaws developed under the previous eight years of Republican oversight.

And what’s this? “…that would risk drawing renewed questions about whether he is actually an American with the slightest whiff of respect for…” Actually an American, what an interesting turn of phrase. Almost as though the author were trying to subconsciously plant the idea that the president is, in fact, actually not an American. But we’ll say no more about that.

So he did what gangsters from the South Side of Chicago have always done. He dispatched one of his bloodthirsty capos to handle his dirty work. Then he strolls up onto the scene all clean and innocent-looking in his fancy, pressed duds and shiny spats and plays the wise guy.

Oh really? Valerie Plame. Scooter Libby. Dick Cheney. George W. Bush floating serenely above the fray. That is all I have to say to that.

As Mr. Obama misquoted Harry S. Truman the other day: “The buck stops with you.” Obviously he was confusing Truman with his real hero, Al Capone.

This political thuggery straight off the streets of Chicago signals desperation in the Obama campaign and a level of deception unrivaled in recent presidential politics.

Yeah, I don’t know what he is talking about either. But will someone please explain to me the American right’s frequent use of of the terms “thug” or “thuggish” in describing left-wing activism? You read or hear it all the time, on any right-wing blog. Why thugs? Is this a remnant from the Jimmy Hoffa days, or something else? Why is a left-wing person who uses strident language and occasional overstatement a “thug”, while a right-wing person is just understandably carried away because of their deep and abiding love for America, and should be given a free pass? Huh?

And most decent people would not suggest that the president’s hero is a murdering gangster. You can say it, Charles, that is totally within your constitutionally guaranteed rights, but I’m going to call you a low-life, slanderous, sanctimonious moron for having said it.

Democrats howled when John Kerry got “swift-boated” during the 2004 election with questions about his deservedness of medals he won during Vietnam — medals that he later threw away in protest of America and the military.

Okay, this one really annoys me. “…threw away in protest of America and the military”? Charles Hurt, could you be any more of a stereotypical US conservative? All about institutions and paternalism and respect for authority, and livid whenever anyone questions any of these. John Kerry loves his country, I’m sure, having served it in so many ways throughout his career, and it is disrespectful in the extreme for you to suggest otherwise. I would venture to say that Kerry threw away his medals in protest at the US foreign policy of the time, as conducted by the US military, and not at the idea of America and the US military in themselves. Many people, patriots also, would defend the right to burn the flag as a protest, but then I’m sure you would consider them traitors and anti-Americans too. Because anything but total, blind, unswerving allegiance to the government policy of the day is treason, of course. Oh, wait – unless there a Democratic administration that you disagree with in power, in which case you exercise your patriotism by making warm noises about armed uprisings and overthrowing the government.

And it’s just so much easier to win an argument when you grossly mischaracterise someone else’s actions and arguments, isn’t it, Charles?

Okay, I’m not going to spend any more time on Charles Hurt. I should not have risen to the bait. But the thought of him sitting there, reading the daily papers and getting outraged about all of the terrible policies that liberals are enacting, and the dirty processes by which they operate, whilst wilfully forgetting everything bad that happened under the previous Republican administration, was too much for me.

So I’m calling you on this one, Mr. Hurt.

Your article sucks, and you are the first winner of my Bad Journalism Award. Not that what you do – based on this example, at least – can really be called journalism as such.

In case you are wondering, your prize was the fact that I called you a low-life, slanderous, sanctimonious moron on my blog.