Libertarian Securitarianism on Campus

It’s just not funny. Campus culture has gotten so weird, comedian Chris Rock has accused, that it’s not even funny anymore. Conservative writer Peter Lawler has offered recently a mouthful of a phrase to help explain the paradox at the root of today’s bizarre campus culture.

Today’s students, Lawler charges, too often combine a libertarian faith that they can do as they please with a securitarian insistence that they be provided with an utterly safe environment to do so. As Lawler put it in the pages of The Weekly Standard,

The campus . . . can be close to a consumer-sensitive libertarian and securitarian paradise, where students are offered a comfortable, “no worries” environment in health-club dorms with gourmet food, recreational facilities, student-affairs staffs that function like concierges, and classes that are virtually impossible to flunk. Students are remarkably free to frolic with each other in the service of pure enjoyment. Sure, that’s an exaggeration and not true at all about some campuses. But like any good exaggeration, it points to an inconvenient truth—this one about privileges without responsibilities.

Lawler charges that the root of Rock’s disgust, the root of incredible stories such as the Virginia faux-rape case, the root of higher education’s increasingly jarring disconnect from reality, lies in this paradoxical expectation.

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