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Rick Robinson: The Pussification of College Students

After a Dartmouth College sorority cancelled its annual Kentucky Derby party over protests claiming the greatest two minutes in sports is racist, many aging former college activists were left to ponder: “When did the modern American college student become the symbol for whiney, self-absorbed, thin-skinned, elitist pussies?”  

The Dartmouth dust-up is just the latest example of pussiffication on college campuses.  Last week, students at Emory University became “afraid” and were left “in pain” after seeing “Trump 2016” written in chalk on campus sidewalk.

The bruising of frail emotions deserve a Hallmark card, not a change in political philosophy.

And that’s the sad part about today’s campus outrage. It’s based on some cosmic notion of subjective individualized fairness.

In the Sixties and early-Seventies, college activism was about big picture issues impacting the nation. Students sat at lunch counter demanding civil rights and were shot down at Kent State protesting the war in Southeast Asia. Today’s college student is worried about getting their feelings hurt by somebody’s support of a Presidential candidate – good stuff for a political science class or two, but hardly a reason to burn down the ROTC building.

And there’s the rub. I'll stand with those who support gay equality. I'll join the voice demanding human rights in apartheid Cuba. But, I assume Bruce Springsteen won't be cancelling any concerts over emotional allergies to chalk.

A movement called “Democracy Spring” marched on DC this week to enact “mass nonviolent action on a historic scale to save our democracy.” And the lofty demands for this game-changing protest – easier voter registration and campaign finance reform.

On the first day, about 400 people showed up – a great turnout for a Greek mixer at the Student Union, but not a showing to change the course of western civilization. Eighty-five people were arrested for sitting on the steps of the Capitol to block the entrance of elected officials who use underground tunnels to enter the building.  

And their cheers sucked.

Leader: What do we want?

Crowd: A Constitutional Amendment declaring a corporation is not a person

Leader: When do we want it?

Crowd: As soon as it’s ratified by three quarters of the states.

Not exactly “Hey! Hey, LBJ. How many babies did you kill today?”

Friday’s sit-in was reserved exclusively for students and there were more gawking tourists than protesters. It’s a good thing the students joined forces with a rally for DC statehood or the crowd would have been smaller than an anthropology class at Tufts. I assume more students wanted to attend, but their parents would not give them gas money.

On Friday corporate greed was decried by young people dressed in Columbia {COLM – $60.60  ↑ 0.17} shirts, Abercrombie and Fitch {ANF – $28.11 ↓ 0.58} pants, and Crocks {CROX – 9.74 ↑ 0.69}, while they drank Starbucks {SBUX - $60.13 ↓ 0.08} coffee.  

This time people were arrested for sitting on the steps of the Capitol to block the entrance of elected officials who use tunnels to enter the building and who had already left town for the weekend.

A group leader yelled, “Where’s CNN?” Judging from the looks I got when I replied “covering news that actually matters,” I determined it was time to leave.

It’s no wonder the protest seemed so meaningless. The American college campus is currently yearning for a voice to compel followers to take over the dean’s office and set fire to the president’s furniture in the campus square. And with all due respect to students at the University of Kentucky, burning couches following SEC basketball championship game doesn’t count.

I blame those of us who went to college in the late-seventies for the current narcissistic decent into college campus hell. We listened to disco, smoked pot, joined fraternities and sororities and had unprotected sex (occasionally with a partner). When Jimmy Carter made us turn back our thermostats, we complied.

My senior year at Eastern Kentucky University, the single most important student issue was expanding opposite sex visitation hours in dorms and repealing the “door open and one foot on the floor” policy during such visits.  

We never saw political correctness coming. We certainly never thought it would be the guiding light for our kids. And how could we? We were busy trying to make-out with one foot on the floor.

As for the Derby – bring on the protests.

On the first Saturday in May I will be at Churchhill Downs sporting my new “Horse Lives Matter” tee shirt. If that offends any students out there, put your name and address in the comments below. I’ll send you a Hallmark card.

Rick Robinson is the author of award-winning thrillers. Visit his website at

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