Surprise: CNN Panel Unanimously Denounces Campus 'Safe Spaces'

On Monday's CNN Tonight, Don Lemon and his panel refreshingly condemned "safe spaces" on college campuses. Lemon raised how some student Trump supporters have called for their own "safe spaces." Dennis Prager recognized the "legitimate factor here that kids who did vote for Trump are ostracized," but added, "I'm still against the safe space even for conservative students." Professor Todd Gitlin defended the right of white nationalists, such as Richard Spencer, to speak on campus. Carl Bernstein bluntly shot down "the idea that we have interference in the process of free speech on campuses" as being "outrageous on its face." [video below]

The anchor first turned to Prager, who pointed out that "students of the left" created the concept of "safe spaces" in order to "never be exposed to someone from the right." After acknowledging the "legitimate factor" of college liberals regularly treating their conservative peers poorly, the conservative radio host underlined that "the university should be a safe space for everybody. There shouldn't be any play dough, stuffed animal safe places."

Lemon asked for Gitlin's reaction to the Trump supporters' "safe space" request. The Columbia University professor, who was a left-leaning activist in his youth back in the 1960s, gave his own blunt assessment:

TODD GITLIN, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM AND SOCIOLOGY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think safe spaces are highly overrated. I agree that universities should be safe for conversation and disagreement. If there are Trump supporters at the University of Michigan...who are dismayed because other students don't agree with them, I say, stick up for what you believe. Don't go whining to the administration. That's supposed to be what soft, pussy, left people do.

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Bernstein laughed at Gitlin's response and replied, "I think we all agree on this one....the safest space is a free debate and respect for real debate. And this is nonsense." The professor also played up that "we live in a world in which black students have been abused. It's not the Trump people who've had swastikas painted on their environment."

The CNN journalist indicated that he leaned against "safe spaces" as well: "What has happened, though, to college campuses — where kids or students need safe spaces now? Because when I was growing up, there were a lot of people who hated me — not because of my ideology or politics. It was just because of who I was, or the color of my skin. But, you know, all of that built up my armor."

Later in the segment, Prager targeted the "the cowards known as college presidents and professors and deans. The University of California has issued...an official list of micro-aggressions — of things that are considered racist at the University of California. Here is one example: anyone who says that there is only one race, the human race, is now considered a racist officially at the University of California. They foment this hatred."

The full transcript of the panel discussion segment from the December 12, 2016 edition of CNN Tonight:

DON LEMON: Voters on one college campus calling for safe spaces in the wake of the election, but it's not the voters you might think.

Back with me now is Todd Gitlin, Carl Bernstein, and Dennis Prager — and Todd, I want to start with you: speaking of freedom of speech, students who voted for Trump at the University of Michigan have written a letter asking for campus-wide safe spaces. One writes, 'It is shameful to live in a nation where individuals are afraid to voice their beliefs for fear of being shamed. Nobody has died; the United States has not died; democracy is more alive than ever. Simply put, the American people voted and Trump won.' So why do you say safe spaces would be a bad development?

[Post-Election 2016: 'Safe Spaces' On Campus?; Trump Supporters On Campus Want 'Safe Spaces'"]

DENNIS PRAGER, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, you're asking me? Safe spaces was (sic) invented by students of the left. Whenever there's a conservative speaker on the campus, like Christina Hoff Sommers — who can't get more gentle than that woman — who came to speak at various campuses and deny that there is a rape culture, for example. At the campus, these kids — and I would say children — retreat to places with stuffed animals, play dough, and other — and literally, toys to play with — to comfort them. So this was created only by students on the left who feel that they should never be exposed to someone from the right.

There are — there is, however, a legitimate factor here that kids who did vote for Trump are ostracized, and feel quite not — not micro-aggressed against, but loathed and hated on the campus. I'm still against the safe space even for conservative students, because the university should be a safe space for everybody. There shouldn't be any play dough, stuffed animal safe places.

LEMON: So, and Todd, you're a professor. Initially, that question was meant for you but what do you make — the same question, what do you think?

TODD GITLIN, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM AND SOCIOLOGY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think safe spaces are highly overrated. I agree that universities should be safe for conversation and disagreement. If — if there are Trump supporters at the University of Michigan — where I spent a couple of years — who are dismayed because other students don't agree with them, I say, stick up for what you believe. Don't go whining to the administration. That's supposed to be what soft, pussy, left people do—

PRAGER: I agree. That's right—

GITLIN: Come on! Get real! What are they afraid of?

CARL BERNSTEIN: (laughs) I think we all — I think we all agree on this one—

PRAGER: That should be a monopoly of the left—

LEMON: Whoa, whoa, whoa — one at a time! That's something — that everybody on this panel agrees on — okay—

PRAGER: That's right — only for the left—

BERNSTEIN: The safest — the safest space is a free debate and respect for real debate. And this is nonsense; and it's been going on on campuses and all those who have engendered it.

LEMON: What has happened, though, to college campuses — where kids or students need safe spaces now? Because when I was growing up, there were a lot of people who hated me — not because of my ideology or politics. It was just because of — of who I was, or the — the color of my skin. But, you know, all of that built up my armor.

GITLIN: I think campuses should be free places where people who feel abused or in need of support can talk with their peers. They shouldn't interfere with the public life of the campus. They shouldn't occupy the center of the campus. But they have a perfect right to meet and do what they like. If they want to play with toys, it's okay to play with toys.

What they don't have a right to do is to demand — and I'm here speaking with anybody regardless of color or ideology or anything — of religion; what have you — they don't have a right to be insulated from everyday life, which — the university is a place where people should be talking and arguing.

PRAGER: Todd, I blame—

LEMON: But where do they draw the line? Hold on; hold on. I got to ask—

GITLIN: But I just want to add — I'm going to add one thing—

LEMON: Go ahead—

GITLIN: We live in a world in which black students have been abused. It's not the Trump people who've had swastikas painted on their environment—

PRAGER: We don't know who painted the swastikas. It is not fair. That's not fair—

GITLIN: It's not them who are being cat-called. It's not them who are being threatened with rape. So I think—

PRAGER: Who's threatened with rape?

GITLIN: You know, I'm not — I'm not somebody who thinks that students don't have a right for self-protection; and I think that the university, at large, is — must be deeply committed to sustaining the — the dignity and the safety of every student. It's an assault on all students when one student is singled out and discriminated.

LEMON: But where do you draw the line? Do you draw the line with someone like Richard Spencer — you know, the — the white nationalist who — who spoke at Texas A&M? Where — do you draw the line with that, or—

GITLIN: Look, I — when I was at the University of Michigan, George Lincoln Rockwell came to speak. He was the head of the American Nazi Party. You know, he did not convert a soul, to my knowledge. And he was a part of a series of — okay, they were into controversy. You know, the Earth kept on spinning on its axis. So I say, yeah, let Spencer talk—

PRAGER: When were you were a kid, Nazis — Nazis got a—

GITLIN: Let people see — let people see how hateful, loathsome, and — and insufferable Richard Spencer is; how vile his ideas are; and, you know, they'll be grown up enough to repel them.

LEMON: Okay. Go ahead, Dennis—

BERNSTEIN: Free speech is the most important thing we have—

LEMON: Hang on, Carl. Let Dennis get in; and then — and I'll you — I'll let you get in, Carl — Dennis first—

PRAGER: Nazis — Nazis got more freedom of speech when I was a kid than regular, anti-Nazi conservatives get today.

As to the larger question, I place 100 percent of the blame on the cowards known as college presidents and professors and deans. The University of California has issued — issued an official list of micro-aggressions — of things that are considered racist at the University of California. Here is one example: anyone who says that there is only one race, the human race, is now considered a racist officially at the University of California. They foment this hatred.

LEMON: Go ahead, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: Free speech is absolutely sacrosanct; and the idea that we have interference in the process of free speech on campuses is outrageous on its face. And, indeed, everyone needs protection; and there ought to be protective places, if there is a real threat, to retreat to. But that's something that's very different than coddling people, and saying, 'Wait a minute. We are going to circumscribe free speech with the idea that people's speech and ideas can hurt us.' Let them express themselves.

LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you.


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