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  • Writer's pictureLilith Starr

Musing on the Campus Culture Wars

This "culture war" happening at universities across the nation fascinates me. Most of what I see in my feed are articles slamming students for being too sensitive, too whiny, too self-centered, for making a giant mountain out of a molehill and abridging free speech in their overreaction.

But there's got to be more going on here. Many of the agitating students are protesting systemic racism, subtle misogyny and other dehumanizing practices that on the surface may seem like trivial matters─but added up equal a deadly cocktail for the underprivileged.

College is a place where young people from all different backgrounds, locations and cultures meet for the first time. It's often there that we befriend people who are very different from us, people who may tell us first-hand about the discrimination they face. It may be the first time people believe us when we tell of being raped, beaten or abused─and the first time we encounter the idea of triggers and try our best to protect our psyches from them.

I don't know enough to make judgements. I'm not a professor whose teaching job is hampered by the need to protect students from triggering passages. I'm not a college dean who has to respond delicately and appropriately to demands for sweeping changes. And I'm sure as hell not an 18 year old black, gay or transgender student arriving fresh from a small conservative Christian community where I had to hide who I was, and where I never had the chance to talk to others my age. I'm not the privileged white student who suddenly is made aware of that privilege and who sympathizes with my new friends.

Clearly there is something going on, and no doubt it consists of myriad complex issues that can't be summarized in one sound bite. I'm curious to see where it goes next, though. I believe much of the progress on civil rights in the 60s and 70s came from the clashes at universities.

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