The Louisville Cardinal

Coloring books and safe spaces won’t prepare you for the real world

By Nick Amon —

Whether it’s to better themselves as individuals or understand what they want to do, college is a catalyst for today’s youth. The most valuable knowledge one could gain during their college experience comes from those who challenge our beliefs and expose us to new ideas — or at least it should.

With election results in mind, many universities have opened doors to a new way of thinking, which ironically prevents new ways of thinking. Distraught students upset about this year’s election don’t need to fret any longer because universities are taking it upon themselves to hold their hands.

I’m not kidding. The University of Michigan Law School recently announced a “post-election self-care” event for students to partake in positive activities of card making, coloring sheets and bubbles. Yeah, that actually happened.

I doubt any amount bubble blowing will console your anxiety over a Trump presidency. Is he a xenophobic, misogynistic, ego maniac? Of course. But do you think a coloring book would help me get over this? Although I’d appreciate the gesture, I highly doubt it.

This instance at UM isn’t a singular case of back-patting either. This way of thinking has established itself as a norm. Cornell for instance? A “cry in.” Yale? A “group scream.” The University of Pennsylvania (Trump’s alma mater) even had puppies and coloring books for students who experienced anxiety over the outcome. As much I love puppies and reassuring dialogue, I can’t help but cringe at the thought of universities making it a priority to play mom for their students.

A similar event even took place here at U of L a couple days after election day. The event which was held in Bigelow Hall was meant to provide a “safe space for students and others to express their concerns and fears that stemmed from the results of the election” – this is how Vice Provost for Diversity and International Affairs, Mordean Taylor-Acher described the intentions of the event.

It’s hard to argue that after such a controversial election, students deserved an event that discusses what the results mean for them – an event where they could constructively debate and express their opinions together. And according to Taylor-Archer, this is exactly what U of L’s recent event provided for students. “It (also) provided an opportunity for those who voted for the new president-elect to share and explain reasons for voting for their candidate.” However, the question remains – how much debate really came from an event that was primarily geared towards those who were upset about the election? If the event was instead promoted as an open debate about the results, I would argue that the campus community would’ve seen much more direct benefits.

Let’s not forget either, just because the event here at U of L gave a platform for both sides to express their opinions, doesn’t mean other universities followed suit.

I would love to say this is where all of this stops, but I can’t. Micro-tantrums about micro-issues resulting in micro-aggressions have somehow reached normalization for post-secondary academia in 2016. Safe spaces – which can free students of burdens such as social anxiety and pressure regarding their religion, race, appearance, identifications and sexual orientations – have instead given them a new burden to deal with. If these students are coddled during their time in college, how will they react to the objectionable nature of the real world upon graduation?

A university is supposed to provide students with a foundation of knowledge and equip them with the skills to interpret issues. Once universities make it a priority to consolidate feelings and promote friendship instead of ensuring students are prepared for hardships, the entire purpose of the university fails. It provides a disservice to students who spend thousands of dollars for rhetoric that their mother could’ve taught them at home.