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December 11, 2017

An open letter to the students of UMass

Jessica Picard/Collegian

Dear Students of UMass,

  1. The Real World Isn’t a Safe Space

At UMass and colleges nationwide, there have been overwhelming calls for university administrations to declare “safe spaces.” These safe spaces are areas, sometimes campus-wide, where students are shielded from ideas or words that they disagree with, might be offended by, or might find triggering. The problem with this notion is that the fundamental role of colleges and universities is to not only educate students but to prepare them for life in the outside world. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are no trigger warnings and you need to be prepared to handle real aggressions, let alone microaggressions. You will encounter, on a nearly daily basis, things that offend you or aren’t neatly in line with your worldview. The world isn’t a politically correct place – in fact at times it’s a disagreeable, offensive, racist and terrifying place. If we create “safe spaces” on our colleges campuses where we pretend these things don’t exist, sheltered students will be ill equipped to handle the real world after graduation.

  1. College is an Investment 

Receiving a college education enriches our lives in many ways. However, the fact remains that one of the most important reasons to spend four years here is to secure for yourself a pathway to a promising career. With the exorbitant cost of college today and the harsh realities of the world we live in, you need to start looking at your education as an investment in your future. You pay your college tuition bill so at the end of the day it’s your decision alone whether you want to major in gender studies or philosophy, despite the fact that more practical fields like business or science have better employment prospects and wages. It’s up to you whether you spend your four years here hitting the bars or the books. But remember, you are not entitled to a job or the material comforts you’re likely accustomed to when you leave here after these four years. Your decisions are your own to make but ultimately if your education decisions turn out to be a bad investment, it’s nobody else’s fault but your own.

  1. Open Your Mind

I hate to be the one to break it to you but at the ages of 18-22, we do not have the entire world figured out. Yes, I know you’ve read several Buzzfeed articles on each hot political topic and you’ve heard the opinions of your educated but incredibly partisan professors. Still, I encourage you not to go through life thinking that one side has everything spot-on and that there is nothing to learn from those you disagree with. After all, for every well-researched professor espousing liberal ideology on campuses nationwide, there is a Yale or Harvard-educated conservative somewhere doing the same. Don’t fall into the trap of the liberal bubble, the echo chamber where you’re never confronted by the ideas of those you disagree with. Ultimately, there is no single truth, and constantly exposing yourself to the ideas of those you disagree with will only making your understanding of your own opinions more complete.

  1. Be Grateful

Liberal activists on campuses across the country are the first to bandy about the term privilege – usually, but not always, referencing white privilege. To be fair, there is no doubt that there is some level of institutional and social racial inequality still existing today. However, to divvy-up campus communities in order of how privileged we are can be not only divisive, but it also distracts from how blessed we are to have opportunity. Essentially, when you do this what you’re doing is saying “Well you’re in the 99th percentile of privileged people on this earth and I’m only in the 97th …” Don’t forget for a moment that there are millions of people on this earth who are oppressed, enslaved, starving or impoverished. There are people who don’t have an iota of the opportunity that all Americans have, regardless of race, gender or class. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are victimized or held back by our society. Will we all face a level playing field? Undoubtedly, the answer is no. But at the end of the day, what you make of your life is up to you and you alone.

Bradley Polumbo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at bpolumbo@umass.edu.

Comments
4 Responses to “An open letter to the students of UMass”
  1. Shannon says:

    Bradley, this is sad, even for you. Why do safe spaces bother you so much, why does it anger you so much to know that people feel safe and accepted? Are you so insecure with your own feelings that you thrive off of others being put in vulnerable situations? If someone has been raped or had an abortion and there is a lecture discussing these very sensitive and deeply personal issues we should not give it a trigger warning so that victims can live out their pain and suffering again? And in many places, “in the real world” there are trigger warnings because people outside of college can actually be caring and genuine. I think if anything political correctness is a trigger for you, which is very sad. When you really think about it political correctness has nothing to do with whether you are a democrat or a republican but has to do if you are a compassionate person who cares about the feelings of others, or not. As political correctness is simply the avoidance of using terms and expressions that exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. It’s also quite funny how you are portraying “liberals” as sheltered when it is conservative people like yourself who are so sheltered that you don’t understand that being a racist isn’t cool! Just because racism exists “in the real world” we should all just be racists and not considered the feelings of groups of people that we have marginalized and discriminated for years? I am literally laughing out loud at your third tip “open your mind” as you are one of the most closed-minded people I know. Liberals are the most open minded people there are while you (maybe not you personally, but I wouldn’t doubt it) and conservatives alike get so disturbed at the fact that there are more than two genders or that girls can like girls or that boys can like boys, you get my point. Not only that, conservatives are the people who don’t believe in global climate change, in literal scientific facts!!!!! How is it that liberals need to open their minds? And have you ever stopped and thought about why you believe college professors and campuses have such a “liberal bias”? Maybe it’s not because they want to brainwash you, as you so believe but it is because they are good people who believe in science and human rights and equality for all religions, sexes, genders, races, and backgrounds. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be in a liberal bubble if it meant human rights and equality for all, I’m not sure maybe it’s because you are afraid that if everyone has equal rights and the same opportunities you won’t be a privileged white boy who can write shit like this article and get away with it. Lastly, as a privileged rich white boy, to say that there is “some level of institutional and social racial inequality still existing today” is mind boggling. Today, in 2017 unarmed black men are still being shot up by white police not to mention the mass incarceration of black men that began after slavery. We stole people from their homeland of Africa and forced them into slavery and then jailed them. To say there us only “some level” or racism existing today is disgusting. The Black Lives Matter movement did not begin because there “is some level” of racism and the fact that you can’t see that is sad but frankly not surprising. And just because other countries have it worse then us means that we shouldn’t fight for fair wages, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, black rights? That is just such stupid logic that just because other people have it worse means that we shouldn’t better our own country. And yeah you don’t have to worry about an even playing field because you are a fucking privileged rich white guy so you will always have the home-field advantage. I think what you are trying to say that you are totally fine with the inequalities and injustices this country faces because honestly growing up in poverty leaves you more prepared for life. Wouldn’t you agree, I mean on January 17, 2016 you did tweet “Everybody wishes they grew up in privilege but honestly it leaves you less prepared for life.”

  2. Bradley Polumbo says:

    Okay Shannon,

    So I am going to tackle the things you’ve written one by one.

    -Safe Spaces “bother me so much” because they are intellectual cowardice. When a school or institution declares a “safe space”, they are saying you can’t handle opposing views, disagreements, offensive things, or anything that might push you out of your bubble. It’s condescending. We learn by being confronted by things we disagree with, having our opinions challenged, being exposed to the wide-ranging and harsh realities of the world. You can’t do that in a “safe space”.
    -Trigger warnings are ridiculous. 99% of the people who claim to be “triggered” or need these warnings are not rape victims, and do not have PTSD. They are sheltered individuals who are offended by anyone who dares disagrees with them or see things differently. I have enormous compassion for anyone who has been through that type of trauma. Still, mental health experts say that anyone whose PTSD can be triggered by the mere mentioning of a topic are in a highly unstable mental state, and would unfortunately likely need institutionalized treatment. This is not the reality for 99% of people who defend or seek “trigger warnings”. There are NOT trigger warnings in the real world, and if you are incapable of ever hearing anything offensive without falling apart you will be totally unprepared for the outside world, a career, or whatever it is you wish to do with your life.
    -I’m not sure what would give you the basis to say that I think racism is cool. There is absolutely no evidence to back that up. I am not a racist, and denounce racism. You, and many liberal SJWS of your ilk, use the “you’re racist” card for anyone you disagree with. Some, like Donald Trump, it may very well be true – but for many it’s just an excuse for you to not actually engage with their ideas.
    – Open-mindedness is really important to me. I constantly engage with people who disagree with me, hell, I’m surrounded by them at Umass! I respectively give people space for their ideas. I like to hear different points of view as much as possible. In my personal life, I have relationships with all sorts of people and do not define those relationships by what demographics people fit into. For every news story, I read both conservative (usually the Wall Street Journal) and liberal (usually the NYT) sources. I think your notion that I have a closed mind is hard to back up with the facts. You are right in one sense, that liberals are usually very accepting of diversity – unfortunately just not diversity of thought. They usually don’t care if your brown, white, gay, etc…. but only so long as you think like them. That’s not open-mindedness. While I’m not sure there are more than two genders, as that depends on which definition of gender you ascribe to, I have no issue with or prejudice against trans or LGBTQ people. My philosophy is that whatever people want to do with their own lives, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else, is totally up to them and I won’t judge them for it.
    -I do believe in climate change. Many conservatives do. Just not Donald Trump.
    -If all a “liberal bubble” meant was equal rights for all, of course I would want that. But that’s not the reality. What it means is a sheltered environment, where you’re only allowed to think one way. In fact, it often means less rights & freedom, as liberals are the first to silence the freedom of speech of those who disagree with them. As for professors, I don’t support a liberal bubble if it means they will politicize their courses, ignore counterarguments, and indoctrinate students. Simply put they are paid to teach their respective subjects, not their political views.
    -Our society is not a perfect equal Eutopia. And it never will be. There is certainly some level of discrimination and oppression that goes on in this country. But in many ways all Americans have an incredible level of opportunity that exists almost nowhere else on earth. And trust me, I’m well aware of the fact that racism exists – you just proved it with your post. Your notion that because I am a “privileged rich white boy” although you know nothing of my background or life, is essentially saying that my opinions are less valid because of the color of my skin. That is incredibly racist.
    -On an aside, I do believe that black lives matter (who doesn’t?) and believe in criminal justice reform.
    -As for your stalking my twitter, I’ll disregard my discomfort with that and say that you don’t know anything about my life. And that tweet was meant to convey the idea that people who live sheltered lives, which in many ways I have not, do not develop the same levels of independence, drive, ambition, problem-solving, and determination as those who do. This an idea I whole-heartedly endorse.

    Sincerely,

    Brad Polumbo

  3. David Hunt 1990 says:

    RE: Shannon.

    First, paragraphs?

    Second… the Kool-Aid is strong with this one.

  4. OKC says:

    Every class I ever attended at UMASS was politicized. Talk about intellectual dishonesty…

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