Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian


<lass="page layoutArea column" title="Page 1">

As an editor of the paper, I feel a responsibility for what gets published in these pages. As a writer, I feel a responsibility for everything I write. As it should be; we must be careful about the words we fling out into the world.

But after about a year at this job, the feeling has morphed beyond responsibility. I’ve developed this self-conscious honing device that buzzes around my brain, scanning computer screens with stinging eyes, targeting potentially “problematic” language. It flashes the questions in my mind: Is this harmful? Is this offensive? Will The Carletonian or I personally get “in trouble” for writing or publishing this?

Silly, perhaps, but it’s true. You can’t ignore the fact that,with the advent of twitter and facebook and other social media sites, if you publish or write something–or say something or wear something or do something–that even just one individual thinks shouldn’t have been published or written, you could be in for a lot of virtual (and maybe not-so-virtual) public shaming. If you’ve ever read “Overheard at Carleton,” you know this happens here; I needn’t give examples. Heck, forget about internet, have you ever read The Clap?

I’m not saying such responses aren’t always warranted, and yes, it’s good to be cognizant of the claims we make. But at least personally, I worry that this self-consciousness inhibits our other responsibilities to the paper, namely, to help engender a publication which acknowledges various viewpoints, offers a wide array of opinions, and does not shy away from controversial conversations or sticky issues.

I disagree with much of what Judith Shulevitz writes in her NYT Op-Ed, “In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas.” I don’t agree with her definition of “safe space.”

I think she conflates the therapeutic areas often set up for victims of trauma during potentially triggering events with the general efforts by students to make campuses “safer.” I am oh-so-tired of hearing the modern trope that our generation has been “infantilized” by our parents, that we are not as “hardy” as our forebears (where is the proof, the evidence?). I find her language and argument overwhelmingly patronizing.

But her claims should also not be tossed aside. To do so, of course, would reinforce her argument. They are compelling ideas, and many warrant further attention, especially because she’s primarily talking about elite liberal arts colleges like Carleton.

Her op-ed left an impression on me because I’d believe she’s picking up on a rather fascinating tension in higher education right now between political correctness, free speech and the process of creating those “safe spaces.” It’s a tension that stems from a deep confusion about what it means to honor our societal and democratic ideals of individual freedom, while simultaneously disavowing discrimination and hatred. It asks the question: How do we create a campus in which everyone has a right to voice and express their opinions and identities, but in which no one else’s opinions or identities has a right to invalidate someone else’s? And perhaps most importantly, where does all of this fit into the ultimate goal of educating students?

These are questions that are worth asking, worth pondering, worth our time. You might disagree with much of what Shulevitz’s writes, but I think we’d all be hard pressed to entirely discredit her argument. There’s something there, and if you don’t feel that it even has the possibility of applying to Carleton, you need to pay more attention.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *