Making a joke about being a girl instead of identifying as one? Saying that not all artists are “equally talented”? Wearing a Reagan-Bush shirt because it’s “laundry day”?
These are the cultural no-nos at New York University, and they led a bewildered Scottish student and a few dissident peers to form a “non-conformist book club” where they could “be free to disagree” without social or formal sanction.
Journalism graduate student Madeleine Kearns writes in The Spectator that she realized NYU students had to make their “own unsafe space” because speaking their minds freely in class and around campus “might cause life-ruining emotional trauma” to their peers:
During my ‘Welcome Week’, for example, I was presented with a choice of badges indicating my preferred gender pronouns: ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’ or ‘ze’?
The student in front of me, an Australian, found this hilarious: ‘Last time I checked, I was a girl.’ Her joke was met with stony silence. …
In a class discussion early in my first semester, I made the mistake of mentioning that I believed in objective standards in art. Some art is great, some isn’t, I said; not all artists are equally talented. This was deemed an undemocratic opinion and I was given a nickname: the cultural fascist. I’ve tried to take it affectionately.
Kearns scouted the members of the book club by “discreetly scan[ning] my classmates’ faces for signs that they might be fellow free-thinkers” during class discussions on subjects including “Islamophobia” and “toxic masculinity.”
They secretly met to discuss books loathed by the regressive left, including Northwestern University Prof. Laura Kipnis’s Title IX-focused Unwanted Advances:
We were a diverse group: a Catholic woman, a black conservative man, an anti-theist neoconservative, a Protestant libertarian, and a quick-witted Spanish contrarian. We were united in agreeing that we should be free to disagree. We made our own unsafe space, and at the end of each meeting, we were invigorated and parted on good terms.
Kearns recounts being excited to share Thanksgiving dinner with former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, but realizing she couldn’t talk about her post-election discussion with him in class:
I received the following email from a professor: ‘Dear all, hope you are all recovering well from any encounters with Trump-supporting relatives over Thanksgiving. I should be all right myself in a day or so.’ Naturally, when this professor asked me, ‘How was your first Thanksgiving?’ I chose to speak exclusively about marshmallow yams.
Read her column to learn about the Reagan-Bush shirt encounter and what happens to black conservatives at NYU.