"People aren't voluntarily going to engage in uncomfortable learning unless there's someplace where they feel safe. It's as simple as that," said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro this week.
Schapiro's outlook on matters of political correctness is somewhat eclectic — he defends the importance of bringing diverse ideological viewpoints onto campus, but also believes in both safe spaces and microaggressions. In that way, he challenges the notion that people must make a binary, almost partisan choice between both sides of the campus political correctness debate.
But his perspective on safe spaces, while interesting and somewhat novel, is still troubling.
"It is funny that I've been seen as this politically correct person. I believe in the Constitution. I really do," he told the Wall Street Journal. "But I also love safe spaces because people, once they get confidence, move out of them."
That's reasonable enough, but doesn't it miss the point?
Why are young people so uncomfortable with ideologically diverse ideas that they need to be sheltered from them in order to engage confidently in the larger debate?
If Schapiro is correct that students need first to be contained to safe spaces in order to graduate into spheres of free speech, why is that? Why do universities need to engender confidence in students to engage in conversations that make them uncomfortable?
Even if one buys Schapiro's argument, it seems like a sad commentary on our time that young people, raised in the freest and most informed society ever to exist, do not have the confidence to confidently cope with ideological disagreement.
Further isolating them from dissent will improve nothing.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.