For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
Display screen shot 2016 03 30 at 11.31.05 am
Mar 30 2016
by Daja Henry

Williams College Official Debunks the Myth of the Hypersensitive College Student

By Daja Henry - Mar 30 2016

In the twenty-first century, there seems to be way more social issues to challenge than in the past. As a result, there has emerged a culture of "hypersensitivity." There are issues such as proper pronoun usage and alleged microaggressions that lead to many pieces being written on this culture, such as "The Coddling of the American Mind," and "The Year of the Imaginary College Student," aimed at exposing how this is not beneficial for college students, pushing them toward a general trend of hypersensitivity. In a world where there are more perceived injustices, everyone has a say in what is offensive. 

Ferentz Lafargue, of Williams College, has brought about another point of view. In an article he wrote for the Washington Post, he says that the coddled students are not the problem. The inherent homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism and anti-Semitism in the world are the problems. He believes that the "tough love" mentality, in which professors tell students to wait for the "real world," is ineffective. 

"The Year of the Imaginary College Student" in the New Yorker attributes this phenomenon to the "Ferguson Effect" of which a byproduct is, "to intensify the desire to see injustices in one’s immediate surroundings as part of larger struggles that once might have seemed distant and abstract, to draw connections and recognize broader patterns linking everyday indignities with systemic problems."

"The Coddling of the American Mind" in the Atlantic, portrays this phenomenon as a threat to scholarship. "What exactly are students learning when they spend four years or more in a community that polices unintentional slights, places warning labels on works of classic literature, and in many other ways conveys the sense that words can be forms of violence that require strict control by campus authorities, who are expected to act as both protectors and prosecutors?"

In the scholarly world, there have been many allusions to the doom of the Socratic learning method and students' ability to think for themselves. There is a general consensus that this "hypersensitivity" phenomenon is not a good thing. Past generations criticize millennials for elevating smaller issues than they had to deal with. 

At Brandeis University, there has been a conflict in which attempts to combat microaggressions has led students to being accused of actually perpetuating them. It's as if everyone is running around pointing fingers at each other. For example, there was an installation listing the different microaggressions toward Asian American students, such as, "Shouldn't you be good at math?" that led to other Asian American students feeling that the whole installation was a display of microaggressions, rather than a way to stop them. Eventually, the president had to send out an email apologizing to anyone who was triggered or hurt.

With so much written against this phenomenon, how could it possibly be good? Lafargue believes that students come to college juggling their past experiences with adjusting to their new environment. Though everyone has their own triggers, the environment he creates at Williams College is one he hopes will facilitate collaboration, dialogue and explorations for social change. He believes the alleged hypersensitivity is a part of students coming to their social and existential identities. He leaves readers with the question, "Do we prepare students to accept the world as it is, or do we prepare them to change it?"

Lead Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Want to write for Fresh U? Join now
Want more Fresh U? Like us on Facebook!
Daja Henry - Howard University

Daja Henry is a sophomore Media, Journalism, and Film Communications major at Howard University. She is a writer, lyric connoisseur, and lover of all cultures. You can follow her on Twitter @dajaeh97.

Most Popular