Like many of us, I’ve been reading a lot these day about students insisting on being coddled and about how such demands are threatening the free speech vital to unversities. There are many versions of the conflict, but Yale and the University of Missouri are in the news today in a clash over the allegedly racist atmosphere African Americans experience.
At the same time I know well what it is like to be targeted by very hostile words and actions. If your university does not make civilty and respect a very high priority, you may be in a fight for survival, with your fitness too often placed in question. One reaction to such a situation is to withdraw as much as possible. In fact, withdrawal is often recommended by books offering career advice, if you need the employment and cannot get a different job.
If nothing else, the adverse health effects of trying to function normally in adverse situations make withdrawal a sensible choice.
So what should students do in hostile circumstances? Someone with tenure may survive trying to minmize social contact with colleagues, but it is hard to see what comparable strategy is available to students. Further, it may be that claims for relief are seen by lots of people as merely an insistence on being coddled.
Mizzou today reached crisis and resolution point. Both the President and the Chancellor are leaving. As It turns out, in some cases students may decide what is to be done: