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Yale Law School is triggered. Welcome to college life in 2021.

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Kathleen Parker

A sign on my desk reads: “I’ll be nicer if you’ll be smarter.”

I’m not feeling nice today — and I’m talking to you, Yale.

No offense intended toward my many friends — and certain family members — who attended the university in Connecticut. But the recent campus skirmish over an alleged triggering event has revealed the absurdity of, oh, just everything — students’ overindulged self-regard; the failure of colleges and universities, generally, to encourage maturity and intellectual rigor in its charges (rather than indulging crippling sensitivity); and our exaggerated notions of triggering as a social and civil guard rail.

Who, anyway, taught the college-bound that they should always be protected, that people should always be “nice,” or that feelings should never be hurt?

What happened at Yale is this: A creative, second-year law student at its venerable law school emailed an invitation to classmates for a “Constitution Day Bash,” to be held at the “NALSA Trap House” and co-hosted by the Federalist Society (of which he’s a member). He promised “American-themed snacks,” such as fried chicken and apple pie.

Before we go further, a few questions, definitions and clarifications: First, who knew Constitution Day was a reason for celebration at graduate schools? Second, NALSA stands for “Native American Law Students Association,” of which the student is also a member. Third, “trap house,” in case you’re unaware, is defined by the Urban Dictionary as, “Originally used to describe a crack house in a shady neighborhood ... “

I don’t think the definition was referring to tree-lined streets, but I also don’t think shady neighborhoods come in only one race, color or ethnicity. But at least nine other law students inferred as much and filed complaints of racism with the Office of Student Affairs. Rather than tell the complainants to get a life, administrators crumpled in a heap of cheap umbrage. Associate dean Ellen Cosgrove and diversity and inclusiveness director Yaseen Eldik called the alleged offender in for a little chat, which he wisely recorded, and told him that not only was his invitation out of line, but also that his membership in the conservative Federalist Society was triggering.

My sides are splitting with laughter, not from any kinship with the FedSoc, as it is nicknamed, but because I don’t have a pillow handy to smother my screams.

When a student uses the term “trap house” at a place like Yale, at worst he’s saying let’s hang out and get high. Any Friday is an excuse for a party, trap houses are everywhere and nearly everyone eats (and enjoys) fried chicken, despite Eldik’s claim that the reference was “used to undermine the argument that structural or systemic racism contributes to US health inequalities.”

Please, Jesus, stop me from saying what I’m really thinking.

Imagine being alone in an interrogation room with these two diversity experts — two words that in a sane world would never be paired. Inside, the student was subjected to an Orwellian nightmare. Signaling the racist-undertone trope, the administrators urged the unnamed student to apologize and later suggested that, if he didn’t, he might face professional repercussions. The Washington Free Beacon, which broke the story, has posted audio of the conversation in which Eldik says: “You’re a law student, and there’s a bar [exam] you have to take, and we think it’s important to really give you a 360 view.”

And this: “I’m worried that this will prolong your own reputation as a person, not only here, but when you leave,” adding: “The legal world is small.”

I don’t know if that was meant to sound threatening, but Eldik, who served in the Obama administration, has mastered the art of insinuating in the nicest way possible that if you don’t do what I say, your life is over. Incidents of diversity extortion aren’t rare. We read about them often enough to wonder where it might end.

This is life on an American campus in 2021. What a shame. Why don’t we start over and reconsider the value of diversity monitoring in our institutions? Based on years of conversations with smart kids, I can assert that these practices more often than not aggravate tensions and almost surely undermine racial harmony.

As for Yale, perhaps its other law students should file a complaint with the school’s powerful Alumni Association about the adverse effects on their educations of zealous administrators who are most in need of a 360-degree view — perhaps as their cars depart New Haven for parts unknown. Just the thought makes me feel nicer.

Distributed by The Washington Post Writer’s Group.

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