Reed College, a private university in Portland, Oregon only has room for one viewpoint when it comes to “rape culture.” If you question statistics like the oft-repeated “1 in 5 college women are raped” in class, you may just be asked to stay home. Just ask Jeremiah True, a 19-year-old Reed student who was banned from his freshman humanities course for expressing just such an opinion.
According to an article in Buzzfeed News, True brought the professor’s wrath upon himself by telling the class that he didn’t think it served any purpose to “overinflate” rape statistics.
“I am critical of the idea of a rape culture because it does not exist,” True said in an email to Professor Pancho Savery. “We live in a society that hates rape, but also hasn’t optimized the best way to handle rape. Changing the legal definition of rape is a slippery slope.”
It might seem that a classroom discussion of rape would have room for such a view, but True’s professor said that “in light of the serious stress you have caused your classmates, I feel that I have no other choice” than to issue a ban. True can still pass his class by doing the completed assignments; he is merely prevented from participating in class discussions.
“This is an excellent example of a professor taking initiative to take care of his students,” Reed senior Rosie Dempsey told Buzzfeed. “Of course, we are an institution that encourages dissent and active discussion, but there is a difference between stimulating discussion through opposition and making other students feel unsafe.”
A Safe Space
Let’s stop there, because the goings-on in a specific humanities class in a specific private college are not terribly interesting. What is interesting is that we live in a time where certain types of discussion is capable of making people feel “unsafe.” Note, please, that there is nothing in the record that says True threatened anyone. There is certainly nothing to suggest that he ever did anything other than speak his mind.
It’s possible that True was an annoyance. It’s possible that he was a loudmouth, and made it hard for the class to stay on track. If that’s the case, then he probably deserved to get kicked out. We’ve all been in classes where we wish someone would just shut up, even when we happen to agree with what they are saying. But it seems that True was asked to leave based not on his demeanor but for his beliefs. And that’s not okay.
If you’ve been paying attention to the left recently, you may have become familiar with the term “safe space.” A safe space is a place people of like mind can gather without worrying about hearing things they don’t like. A safe space for rape victims, for instance, would be one where no one is permitted to make jokes about rape, blame the victim for what happened to them, or speak out against the prevailing leftist notions of “rape culture.” And for what they are, these safe spaces are a fine idea. Everyone deserves to have a place they can go and roll around in their own echo chamber for a little while. It feels good to take a break from defending your views.
But we’re turning into a country where we declare everywhere a safe space, and that’s no good. America was founded on a strict belief in the right to free expression, and that belief has served us well. Yeah, it means that sometimes you have to hear things that make you mad. It means you’ll probably be exposed to ideas you find personally abhorrent. It may even mean that you are “triggered” once in a while. Guess what? That’s life. And if we want to keep this country free, we’re going to have to accept that people are going to get their feelings hurt once in a while.
Seems like an acceptable tradeoff to me.