Meanwhile, in lighter news: the New York Times reports that there’s a growing backlash against speech codes on American universities – from university professors themselves! You’ll love this quote from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), in reference to a report that they just issued: “Universities are acting in a way that is overly precipitous as well as applying overly broad definitions of sexual harassment because they are afraid of scrutiny.” The important word there is ‘overly,’ of course. The real issue here is whose ox is being gored – which is to say, the AAUP’s, and they’re not happy about it.
You see, the AAUP is fuming because the same draconian rules that were put in to… oh, let me just quote the NYT:
The report says that in the last few years, the government has been regulating not just sexual conduct but also sexual speech, and that the emphasis on complying with federal law has led to some professors being investigated by universities for making statements that some students find offensive but that the report says should be protected. A heightened focus on speech, the report said, has led to episodes like one in which students demanded trigger warnings before being exposed to graphic lesbian sex in “Fun Home,” the memoir by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel.
The report in question focuses on gender studies professors, who are apparently now getting hammered with Title IX investigations – a richly ironic state of affairs, given that Title IX is now the administration’s go-to hammer of choice when it comes to sexual discrimination and whatnot. But that’s the fun thing about outrage culture: people like being outraged. And once you give them a taste of it, they tend to go out and go looking for more things to be outraged about.
Come, I will conceal nothing from you: I’ve interacted with people who legitimately have post-traumatic stress disorder, and PTSD is a real thing that can happen to civilians. And if ‘trigger warnings’ were issued in the same way that television shows issue ‘viewer discretion’ warnings, I don’t think that most people here would actually get particularly riled up about it. But when you use PTSD and trigger warnings in the way that they’re increasingly used in academic settings – which is to say, as an unsubtle way of trying to make people shut up – well, you lose the right to complain when someone else does unto you what you have just done unto others. That’s one of the reasons why we have a Golden Rule, frankly.
PS: Note, by the way, that the AAUP doesn’t want to relax our current regime of restricting speech. They simply want a carve-out. Which is hardly an unusual response to this sort of thing; but it’s not actually the most ethical one.