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EDITORIAL: University president defends safe spaces

Today’s progressive college activists see the First Amendment as a vestige of white male privilege that provides cover for those eager to verbally assault members of “marginalized” populations. A recent Wall Street Journal interview with the president of Northwestern University in Chicago makes it clear that some college administrators help foster such dangerous attitudes.

In the eyes of Morton Schapiro, free-wheeling debate and discourse can cause students to feel uncomfortable, making it more difficult for them to learn. That’s why, he told the Journal’s Douglas Belkin, safe spaces are important for today’s young people. And if that sometimes means sacrificing free expression, so be it.

“Now, it is very tempting to take an absolutist view that we can never coddle our students,” Mr. Schapiro said. “We have to prepare them for the world. We never do anything that undermines the brilliance of the First Amendment. That isn’t the real world on college campuses. You want them to feel safe and protected so that they voluntarily engage in uncomfortable learning. That prepares them for the real world.”

Mr. Schapiro seems to be saying that free thought, speech and inquiry are often at odds with a vibrant learning environment and thus must occasionally be suppressed on campus. It is remarkable that a man leading an academic institution of such high repute as Northwestern would stake out such a position.

It also helps explain the rapid growth in leftist totalitarianism that now seeks to smother certain viewpoints at many of the nation’s institutions of higher learning.

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