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Universities have a duty to protect all points of view, even those of Trump voters

By Staff | Nov 22, 2016

Shortly after the Nov. 8 election I wrote a post on SayAnythingBlog.com critical of universities across the nation – including North Dakota State University – for offering counseling services to students agrieved by Donald Trump’s victory.

I interviewed NDSU psychology professor Clay Routledge who agreed with me that universities, including his own, were overreacting. He told me that treating students as though they’re “vulnerable and fragile” may actually make them more vulnerable and fragile.

“The universities could just wait and respond” instead of offering a “preemptive strike,” he told me during an interview on my radio show.

In response to this criticism I’ve received a lot of feedback in the form of emails and social media message and letters to the editor of the state’s newspapers. The claim most often made in these jeremiads was I, a knuckle-dragging conservative troglodyte, was trying to stigmatize mental health treatment.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the point I’m making. There is nothing wrong with seeking out mental health services. If you need help, get help.

There is something wrong, however, with universities stigmatizing a certain election outcome by preemptively suggesting it’s something for which students need counseling.

“(W)hen you treat an election in which the ‘wrong’ candidate wins as a traumatic event on a par with the 9/11 attacks, calling for counseling and safe spaces, you’re implicitly saying that everyone who supported that ‘wrong’ candidate is, well, unsafe,” Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds wrote in USA Today.

It seems extremely unlikely, had Hillary Clinton won the national election, that NDSU or any other university in this country would have rushed to console Trump upset voters.

There lays the problem.

It is not that mental health services were offered to students upset by the national election. It is that college administrators, living in an ideologically homogenous bubble, only see one sort of election outcome as worth getting upset over. And, by extension, show little concern for students or other citizens who may have voted for that outcome.

Claims to the contrary simply aren’t believable given the state of free expression on America’s campuses today. Republican leaders and conservative/libertarian thinkers are routinely disinvited from commencement ceremonies and campus speaking engagements, and often harassed and verbally abused by angry mobs if they do show up.

I didn’t vote for Trump. I think the man campaigned like a cretin and I couldn’t imagine how I’d explain to my children why I thought someone who behaved the way he has is fit to sit in the White House.

But millions and millions of Americans voted for him, and many on the left seem intent on treating those people – students and non-students, men and women, gays and straights, whites and people of color – as though they did something evil.

“In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith,” comedian Jon Stewart said recently in a post-election interview. “Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.”

It is, and it manifests itself most distinctly in America’s universities I’m afraid.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator.

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