Safe spaces and special snowflakes

We are now entering a time in Canadian society when young adults who have never been exposed to reality are deciding they are not ready to do so. This is apparent in the op-ed piece unfairly lambasting Trent Administration for not doing more to stop people posting on Facebook. It is a demonstration of how self-centered our youth is becoming, and how far from reality they live.

To those looking for a balanced and thoughtful discussion, Facebook is certainly not where you should look. It should be noted that all of the posted Facebook discussions are on groups that if you don’t want to see, you don’t have to. The offensive material is not required reading for a Trent class, it actually takes work to go find
offensive material.

The belief that Trent should be responsible for the actions of unaffiliated groups is pathetic. What exactly do you expect Trent to do? Find out what students are saying online, and then if it offends a student, expel them so that you can feel safe? The disregard for free speech is absolutely frightening. Who gets to decide what is
offensive? This call for censorship is not what our country was founded upon, and the implementation of censorship is a violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It feels as though the students have traded their parents for administrators, and feel that it is now their job to protect them for anything that may alarm them.

One of Trent’s missions is to ‘Challenge the Way You Think’. How, as a university, are they supposed to do that if their students are scared of anything that will challenge their beliefs? University campuses used to be a place where we were exposed to unsettling ideas. Many students of the past were offended by ideas, but they didn’t feel this was the fault of the Administration. Personally I am sick and tired of class discussions feeling like an echo chamber of self-congratulation. Without offence and uncomfortable opinions presented to us, we are becoming weak as students. We only listen to what we want to hear, reaffirming our biases and building up blindness to those issues we are afraid to discuss.

Consider two tree nurseries, one in a greenhouse and the other exposed to nature. The greenhouse saplings are able to grow easily without any negative effects from wind or torrential rain. The nursery without protection has a tougher time, the saplings get knocked down, but they recover. It might rain and drown some of them, but those that survive are stronger. Then as they mature, they will be more resilient to droughts, floods and wind storms. These trees will grow to be strong and thrive. However, the saplings inside the greenhouse have only two options. They can either stay in the nursery forever, but if they leave to see the real world, it is unlikely they will be able to survive.

It is not too late for us to leave that greenhouse. Being offended is a part of life, and as we graduate, it will quickly become clear to us that the world is not perfect. Trent University is a ‘safe space’ in comparison to the real world. For us to thrive in the world, we will need to have many traits that can be obtained through our education at Trent, but forcing other people to fall in line with one way of thinking is not the road that will provide us with those skills.

For those of you who feel that Trent is not doing enough to provide safe spaces, I will be selling mobile safe spaces, which includes a pair of earplugs and a blindfold. Blindfolds come in two options: ‘#1 Son’ and ‘Princess’.

-Matthew Walmsley