Much of the nation was shocked Tuesday night when Donald Trump pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election. Pundits, pollsters, and activists who predicted a Clinton victory licked their wounds Wednesday morning. But on the campus of Yale University, students were allegedly so distraught that they begged their professors to postpone midterm exams. Amazingly, at least one professor did just that.
A professor of microeconomics at Yale wrote to his students that after receiving several “heartfelt” emails of distress, he decided to make the exam optional. Students who felt too scared or upset to come to class would face no consequences for skipping out on their midterm. A similar phenomenon was reportedly taking place at other universities across the country: students sobbing, professors stationing themselves on quads to comfort students who needed it, safe spaces set up with puzzles and play dough, free counseling, etc.
This display of coddling at the college level—including at Yale, an ivy league institution—is a perfect example of how professors and university administrators go to great lengths to ensure that their students put off dealing with the real world as long as possible. They’ve tried over the past several years to eliminate anything that could “trigger” their students within the classroom. Now they want to protect them being triggered by life itself. But life isn’t something you can shield students from.
In the real world, you don’t get to stay home from work when a presidential election doesn’t go your way—not to mention the much larger and more difficult challenges that life throws at you. You gather yourself together and march on.
College is first and foremost a place of traditional learning. But it’s also a time for students to practice being adults, not prolong their adolescence. They learn to live on their own, make decisions that have real consequences, and deal with conflict. But most importantly, it is a time to be exposed to new ideas and people and be challenged by those things, even perhaps to be upset by them.
With the advent of the idea of “safe spaces,” this important benefit of the college years is waning. Students are arriving at four-year universities more sheltered and fragile than in previous times. The so-called “snowflake” generation, raised by helicopter parents, is unprepared to face the real world. But rather than expose them to it, universities perpetuate the artificial reality their parents and high schools have created for them.
Perhaps this is why recent reports have found a spike in the use of mental health services on campus. Ohio State University has seen a 43 percent rise in the past five years, and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has experienced a 35 percent increase over the past seven years. Anxiety and depression rates are also soaring.
Some universities have resorted to offering resiliency education courses—that’s academic-speak for stress management. It’s too bad that this type of “education” isn’t naturally rolled into the university experience as a whole.
What better lesson to teach students than how to persevere and stay on track, even if other things in your life or the world aren’t going your way? It’s too bad this Yale professor missed an opportunity to do just that the day after the election.