Author: Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning

Purity and Tolerance: The Contradictory Morality of College Campuses

Increasingly college students throughout the United States complain of perceived slights they call microaggressions, they demand safe spaces where they can be protected from harmful ideas, and they ask for trigger warnings to alert them to course material that might cause discomfort. We have argued that these are all manifestations of victimhood culture — a morality in which people display a high sensitivity to slight, handle conflicts by appealing to authorities, and seek to portray themselves as weak and in need of help. Older moral injunctions to ignore minor and unintentional offenses get cast aside, and those who successfully identify as victims or allies of victims gain a kind of moral status. Moral cultures reflect their social structures, and victimhood culture is no different: It occurs in a context where there is cultural diversity, social equality, and stable authority. Victimhood culture thrives on modern college campuses because these conditions are present. Yet as the contributors at Heterodox Academy have pointed out, the diversity of race, ethnicity, and gender expression at college campuses is counterbalanced by a …