The soufflé is a difficult dish to master. Even seasoned chefs can tell you that this very fragile, puffy delicacy will collapse if you open the oven at the wrong moment. Mirroring the vulnerability of the soufflé, a nation of undergraduate and graduate students is on the verge of a hysterical collapse following Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump.
Just as the frustrated chef’s anxiety comes from the perpetually delicate soufflé, the educator’s anxiety comes from a perpetually delicate generation of students. Post-election safe spaces abound at campuses nationwide, where mollycoddled students are offered coloring books and puppies (not a joke), and administrators implicitly signal to the campus minority that voted for Trump that their political philosophy is damaging to their eggshell peers.
My own law school sent an email offering group stress-relief and individual therapy sessions to grieving students. The higher-tiered University of Michigan law school one-upped us, though, by providing a “[p]ost-election [s]elf-care” session replete with play dough, Legos, and bubbles.
If my school had only asked, I could have brought all those items in. Although it might’ve taken a while to find the play-dough, which is kept in storage with the rest of my 10-year-old daughter’s old toys that she’s outgrown.
After receiving that email from my law school, my wife explained the soufflé-making process to me, which I thought was quite the apt analogy, given college students’ exaggerated victimhood:
Whipping egg whites, the first step in achieving a perfectly rising soufflé is a sensitive task. Egg whites are particularly touchy, and so the bowl must be pristine. One drop of fat or oil in your mixing bowls and they won’t whip.
Sarah Klotz, a Butte College assistant professor, recognized that her post-election egg whites no longer felt their school was the pristine bowl it was meant to be. In place of a planned lesson on Emily Dickinson, her 25 students would instead “talk about their feelings.”
The structure seems strong and high-walled, but is very dainty and must be handled extremely delicately.
Wrestling with defeat, 150 Rice University students clasped hands, hooked arm in arm, and formed a circular wall of anti-Trump solidarity. The student who organized that event encouraged the maudlin display by saying “[y]our voice is wanted, it is desired. Let’s spend a few moments locking arms, holding hands, and feel like one big family.”
It must have perfect conditions, if there’s even one small element that it doesn’t approve of, the structure will not hold.
Eerily, University of Denver has placed a surveillance camera to keep watch over its “free speech wall,” following the defacement of a Black Lives Matter message and the addition of lyrics from the Minor Threat song “Guilty of Being White.” In the spirit of chilling speech, the university explained that “[anonymity] allows one to disrupt community standards without facing the impact and accountability of their work… A camera has been put in place to monitor The Wall.”
You might recall the anti-authoritarian Pink Floyd album (also named) The Wall: “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”
But credit given where credit is due, you must hand it to the University of Denver. The school is apparently running a master class in irony.