College students are too easily offended

too sensitive

Graphic by Courtney Williams/The Cougar

It seems like over the past couple of years, the act of being defensive and protective has spiraled to the point where students can’t even accept a contrasting comment regarding controversial topics.

Students at different campus’ across the country are asking professors to not teach specific subjects, or omit using certain words, because they are “offended” by it.

“Our generation can’t take a joke,” said political science senior Robert Gosling. “Everything has to be considered racist, sexist, ignorant, homophobic or all of the above.”

Comedian Chris Rock has stopped performing on college campuses, because college audiences are getting “way too conservative.”

“Not like they’re voting Republican, but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody,” Rock said in the interview published in Vulture.

Jerry Seinfeld said teens and college-aged kids don’t understand what it means to throw around certain politically-correct terms.

“They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” Seinfeld said.

Young people who find they are being “politically-correct” are now being deemed as “easily offended.” And despite those who feel otherwise, the truth is we are taking this a bit too far. Taking everything personally and putting up a defense against clashing ideals has divided us more than it has helped us resolve any of these issues.

The current movement that is slowly being institutionalized is mainly about emotional well-being. This could limit us in the classroom space, potentially leaving us no room for debate regarding different ideologies and gaining knowledge from different perspectives from our peers and professors.

It presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm.

The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into ‘safe spaces’ where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. It seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally.

“Living in a culture where we have to think twice before speaking up feels like it’s violating our first amendment rights,” said public relations sophomore Marta Martinez. “I understand if they go too far with a certain topic, but we shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves, especially in a learning environment.”

Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are harmful for the students.

According The Atlantic Magazine, this is bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. This is also bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship.

Rather than trying to shield students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control.

Universities themselves should try to raise consciousness about the need to balance freedom of speech with the need to make all students feel welcome.

Having open discussions about such conflicting yet important values is just the sort of challenging exercise that any diverse but tolerant community must learn to do.


Opinion columnist Rebekah Barquero is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]


  • College is a microcosm of the country. Its not the majority that are easily offended it is the vocal few and their willingness to shout out their objections over and over is what gets the universities attention. So then it is reported that “All” students are easily offended and that becomes the “reality” everyone “thinks” is happening. Just like Fox News though just because you can say something louder and more often does not make it true. The universities and colleges need to quit capitulating to these vocal minority and stop worrying so much about possible frivolous lawsuits.

  • Clashing ideas are not a problem. Antagonism, and statements made to criticize, offend, denigrate, or just idiotically misinformed are. 20-somethings have always had a love-affair with pop-jargon, (or pop-anything, for that matter,) even if that jargon is re-cycled. It’s not that two people can not disagree; it’s that taking an intractable side to a thing and then defending it from the most ignorant grounds possible is not considered a very civil way to do so. Ex: You think, all Muslims are terrorist; I say, well, how many Muslims do you know? How many have you met? None, you tell me, And so I ask, how many Muslims do you know who are Arab and how many do you know who are from a western country? How many are American, and don’t look Arab at all? And you come back with a bunch of Fox News -laden crap about ISIS, etc, etc. That’s an exaggerated idea, but you get what I mean. Disagreement doesn’t by default mean being uncivilized just to win a difference of opinion. A good conversation, even if opinions differ, can be a learning experience. It needn’t always be a war of words or a verbal sword fight. But some people just like to be antagonistic and combative or overly-sensitive to appear “contemporary.” and call it having a conversation. Not true. Peace.

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