University Sponsors a Ball Pit for Students to Sit In and Talk About Hurt Feelings

It was called a "vent tent."

Students at the California State University–Northridge sat around in a big ball pit (which they a called a “vent tent”) and talked about hurtful words and their feelings as part of a school-sponsored inclusive language campaign.

According to video and documents obtained by Heat Street, the campaign lasted for a week, was put on by the University Student Union (USU), and cost more than $1,000 in student fees. It’s not clear exactly how much of that money was spent on the ball pit rental, or if there is any research supporting the idea that sitting in a ball pit while having a discussion provides any educational and/or therapeutic benefits.

The USU also printed out posters featuring several words and phrases that it deemed offensive and posted them all over campus. Some of the phrases are actually very offensive (“this b****,” “you are such a f**,” and  “you stupid w****”) and others are much less harmless (such as “you’re being so crazy”) but in both cases, the posters are pretty useless. As for the less harmless ones, it’s clear that something like “you’re being so crazy” is often used in a lighthearted manner, perhaps to describe someone who is being silly, and therefore doesn’t really deserve a blanket warning against its use in all cases. As for the clearly offensive ones? Well, as Heat Street’s Jillian Melchior points out, “it’s pretty inconceivable that a university would feel the need to teach college students that it’s not nice to say, for instance, ‘you stupid w****,’ ‘this b****,’ or ‘f**.’”

#related#Other features of the campaign included a spinning wheel with offensive words, which students would spin and then discuss whether they found the language offensive, and a board where students could write for themselves which words they considered to be harmful. According to Heat Street, one student apparently wrote “When I hear the word ‘edgy,’ it makes me feel triggered,” but it’s not clear exactly just what in the fresh hell that student was talking about, or what people on campus are going to be expected to do about it. After all, “edgy” is pretty universally seen as a harmless word. Should people on campus be expected to suddenly stop using it because one random person considers it offensive for some random reason? I feel like the answer there is pretty clearly “no.”

According to Melchior, the campaign took place in February of 2016.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online

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