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Sorry for calling you ‘idiots’ because you deny microaggressions, Northwestern president says

Golf is my ‘safe space’

Responding to criticism that he himself used microaggressions to criticize those who use microaggressions, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro has apologized for his “idiots” and “lunatics” remarks last month.

The Trump-like president was speaking to new students at a convocation when he slurred people who oppose trigger warnings and “deny the existence of microaggressions,” The Daily Northwestern reports:

“Did I mean to call people idiots? I certainly didn’t,” Schapiro told The Daily on Tuesday. “It was a mistake because…it made it easier for people who don’t believe in the existence of microaggressions.” …

Schapiro noted that he did not prepare remarks for this particular speech. He said unlike many university presidents, he does not rely on speech writers.

His comments about people who decry safe spaces were not the “main thrust” of his speech, he said. His main point was to emphasize that everyone has safe spaces, Schapiro said.

And for Schapiro, the links are his safe space:

“Nobody ever follows me around the (golf) course and says, ‘Oh, you’re too politically correct. You’re coddling students,’” Schapiro said. “We all have safe spaces.”

MORE: Northwestern prez uses microaggressions to stop microaggressions

The president said he believes safe spaces are good for various identity groups – buildings for black students, Catholics and Jews, for example – but should not be imposed in the classroom.

He doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on actual criticisms of safe spaces, claiming that some people believe they violate the First Amendment (as opposed to intellectually shelter people).

As noted by Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Schapiro looks even more clueless when he apologizes:

Who precisely is he referring to? I’m not familiar with anybody who thinks microaggressions don’t exist, or who thinks that people don’t engage in small racist, sexist, or otherwise hurtful slights, both consciously and unconsciously. The primary disagreement is about how serious microaggressions are, how they should be defined, and if they should be policed. Even when apologizing, Northwestern’s president can’t resist strawmen arguments.

MORE: Smith College paper edits out ‘crazy’ quote, replaces with ‘ableist slur’

FIRE’s Alex Morey continues:

If Schapiro himself can’t keep track of what a microaggression is, or resist accidentally using one, how can others on campus be expected to do so? And what consequences should students, or even a university president, face for using one?

In comments noted by the Daily Northwestern, George Mason University Law Prof. David Bernstein wrote in The Washington Post that Schapiro has a tenuous grip on the whole debate:

First, I don’t think anyone denies the existence of what have come to be known as “microaggressions.” But many reasonable people believe (a) that it’s disingenuous or harmful to call an unintentionally insensitive comment an “aggression” of any sort; (b) the concept of microaggression is being used not to encourage cross-cultural understanding, but to serve a particular, invariably left-wing political agenda; and (c) related to (b), the concept of microaggression is applied selectively so that it does not encompass even intentional hostility to Christians, conservatives, “Zionists” and others. Schapiro thus framed the debate dishonestly and then compounded that failure by calling those who dissent from left-wing campus orthodoxy “idiots.”

Read the Daily Northwestern report, FIRE’s analysis and Bernstein’s take.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.