Centers of higher education are often the blame for “radicalizing” students (as if it’s a bad thing 😉). Students represent “freedom, reason, education, democracy” and to speak out against students who are practicing what they learned in school, then institutions responsible for silencing and punishing radical students.
Students are the voice, the “error message” of society, if you will. If voices are silenced, then there are no advocates. Student error messages have popped up numerously in the past in the form of anti-conscription efforts against the Vietnam war and lunch counter protests during the civil rights movement. With new technologies we have other ways to notify the world via text, tweet, gram, vlog, vine (rip), hell, I’ll even make a playlist to let you know what’s wrong, along with reasons and ways to fix it (this is all under the caption of a well-lit selfie, by the way).
Colleges and universities are often described as safe liberal spaces; notorious in forcing “political correctness” onto students, creating an over-sensitive, toxic, call-out culture that is out of touch with the “real world”. When in fact, it is the other way around. These institutions are in fact those who fear their power being revoked; our opinion does not align with what their idea of a “real world” is. In fact, professors of color have been fired for criticizing a university’s questionable donation allocation and race relations.
This is the case with the protests and organizing at international universities demanding the divestment in unsustainable fossil fuels; students are being ignored and silenced. According to DemocracyNow, Harvard has billions in endowments; the most in the country. The richest and most well known college had chosen to invest in companies that profit off of fossil fuel. The group named Divest Harvard organized professors, students, alumni, and the community for protests in an attempt to induce action. Harvard had no response initially; they refused to leave a comment more than once. Essentially, Harvard did not want to open a dialogue about the issue at hand – making money off the bane of our existence.
In response to similar situations, schools often resort to the “more research, more education” default. It’s not only underwhelming, it’s redundant and dismissive. How much more research needs to be done for us to see how much our planet has changed, for the (much, much) worse, over the past few centuries? How much more do we need to learn that oil doesn’t just fuel our cars, but also a military industrial complex that has lasted longer than any of America’s wars? Because of college’s safe spaces we’ve learned the hard truth about such systems that denigrate our society.