Psychologist: Overprotective Environment on College Campuses is Affecting Students’ Mental Health

August 12, 2015

By Meghan Keenan at Red Alert Politics

Social psychologist and NYU professor Jonathan Haidt recently began studying “moralistic trends” on college campuses, and noticed his own students were becoming more and more sensitive to the material he presented in class.

“Most of my students are not so easily offended,” Haidt explained. “But the relationship of trust between professors and students seems to be weakening as more students become monitors for microaggressions.”

Haidt partnered with Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to write an essay for The Atlantic magazine titled, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” in which they list numerous examples of speech restrictions on college campuses and argue the current overprotective environment on campuses is not only detrimental to students’ education – it’s also affecting their mental health.

“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,” the two wrote. “This movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.”

The authors argue that this new way of thinking doesn’t prepare students for professional life, in which people often have to engage with ideas they don’t agree with.

More seriously though, Haidt and Lukianoff say training students to avoid trigger warnings and microagressions may encourage pathological thought patterns similar to those that cause depression and anxiety.

Read the full article at The Atlantic.