The University of Chicago has issued a healthy warning to incoming freshmen: Get over yourselves. At long last, an institution of higher learning is reminding students that they are entering the real world, where people engage and debate and, yes, disagree fervently with each other.

University life is supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas. But in recent years, campus life has been smothered by self-appointed thought police who seem bent on enforcing political correctness at all costs.

At the University of Missouri last year, assistant professor Melissa Click came to embody that Orwellian view. She stood guard at the perimeter of a public space that protesters had declared a “safe space.” Anyone who didn’t think like them was not allowed in, as if it was their space to control.

Despite her role as an instructor in the Department of Communications, her most notable communication tactic was to call in “muscle” to interfere with a journalist covering the protest. The episode underscored how a warped mindset has taken hold at some campuses across the country.

Enough, says the University of Chicago. Administrators have correctly decided to take their campus back in the name of free thought.

“Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression,” John Ellison, the university’s dean of students, wrote in a letter to incoming freshmen. “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship.”

Ellison emphasized the ongoing need for civility and mutual respect but warned that in the free exchange of ideas, there will be “rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

These very words no doubt made some students uncomfortable. But it got worse: He advised them that the university wouldn’t support the notion of “trigger warnings” — statements alerting readers or viewers about upcoming content that might cause distress.

“We do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” Ellison wrote.

Writing in The Atlantic this week, James Madison University religious studies professor Alan Levinovitz noted the concerns of some people that Ellison was playing to “crotchety elites” who have made up a “caricature of today’s college students as coddled and entitled” to hide their fear of empowered students. But no, Levinovitz wrote, the stifling effect of wanton political correctness is real.

It’s no caricature; we saw it played out on Mizzou’s campus. Students everywhere need to absorb Ellison’s message. Life is a messy feast. Toss gently, serve and enjoy.


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