Things such as “trigger warnings” in school syllabi and bars against students saying anything potentially offensive seems like a version of college with training wheels attached.
Yet these protections would seem appropriate for college students if they are seen as children whose maturity hasn’t quite peaked, as one Slate column argued. If that’s the case, then students need a little sheltering with speech and sex codes, as the column suggests, in order to transition to college without feeling forcefully ushered into an adulthood for which they are too ill-prepared.
Just as students shouldn’t have to be barred from certain discussion topics or literary works because of “trigger warnings,” they shouldn’t be introduced to college treated as children if they are expected to change, grow or learn anything, which are kind of the goals of higher education.
Speech codes can include anything offensive alluding to racial or ethnic minorities. As the column noted, an example of this would be not allowing students to bring up discussions about sexual identity in the classroom. But, while students should be courteous enough not to single out a specific group in any given environment, it’s also offensive to assume students can’t handle hearing another person’s opinion, no matter how obtuse it may be.
Sex codes, on the other hand, can be regulations against certain sexual acts that aren’t necessarily against the law, such as intoxicated intercourse. However, codes that are in place for sexual assault prevention aren’t meant to childproof college; they’re there to make school that much safer and aren’t on par with speech codes.
Of course, “trigger warnings” can potentially be helpful to those who have undergone traumatic experiences. However, even this reason is far from assuming students haven’t reached a high enough level of maturity to handle certain topics.
It’s also important to note that “college student” is not an umbrella term for young, traditional students. Still, to make the generalization that college students have the mindsets of children isn’t fair.
For instance, the column claimed young people are impulsive, give consent when they don’t mean it or can’t gauge actual consent and can’t articulate an argument without coming off as offensive.
Yet, this generalization assumes adults can’t be any of the above.
It’s belittling to think young students entering college can’t learn to handle a serious class discussion or that their chance to learn to effectively communicate should be taken away from the start.
After all, one will still have to eventually deal with uncomfortable topics upon graduation. All speech codes can do in college is stave off those experiences even longer.
College should not be a bubble that keeps young adults from the diversity of opinions in the “real world,” and anyone who thinks college students are children who need to have walls put up around them should realize they can’t possibly mature with those walls there.
Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.