The Myth of the Ever-More-Fragile College Student

Jesse Singal:

Over the last two weeks, the news has been dominated by coverage of two very different instances of campus turmoil at Yale and the University of Missouri. In both cases, students are protesting over what they see as administrations that turn a blind eye to the problems faced by marginalized students on their campuses. Some of the students involved have gotten upset or confrontational, leading to dramatic YouTube videos that are hard to watch.

For many observers, these incidents only proved what they already knew: College students are getting increasingly fragile and prone to meltdowns. Too emotional and skewed in their thinking, they latch on to petty issues and scream and cry until they get their way. “Yalies Whining for Protection, Not Fighting Adversity” was a Hartford Courant columnist’s headline. “College Is Not for Coddling,” scolded the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus. In a piece that was picked up by Fox News, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather McDonald decried the “pathological narcissism” of college students today. “This isn’t the behavior of people who are capable of weighing opposing ideas, or of changing their minds when they are confronted with evidence that suggests that they are wrong,” USA Today’s Glenn Reynolds wrote of students on both campuses.