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President of a college that won’t hire LGBTQ people: student protesters should "grow up"

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University has a message for students arguing that colleges are offending them: College is "not a day care," and they need to grow up.

"I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt 'victimized' by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13," the Christian college's president, Everett Piper, wrote in a blog post. "It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love."

He continued:

Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them "feel bad" about themselves, is a "hater," a "bigot," an "oppressor," and a "victimizer."…

If you’re more interested in playing the "hater" card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.

Piper's blog post went viral, as an example of a university president standing up to what's been called the "new political correctness" on campus. It's been shared more than 230,000 times on Facebook and covered in national media.

But it's really an example of how "political correctness" is in the eye of the beholder.

Piper is a conservative president of a very conservative university

Piper's opposition to what's happening on secular campuses is not surprising: Oklahoma Wesleyan is a very socially conservative place. Faculty and staff members have to agree with the school's faith statement in order to be hired. The college has sued twice over Obamacare's birth control mandate. It refuses to hire gay faculty or staff.

Piper takes a special exception to greater acceptance of LGBTQ people in American life: "The rainbow banner of tolerance has become a dark flag of tyranny almost overnight," he said in a speech in June. "What was academic freedom just yesterday is ideological fascism today." He concluded — after a long list of conservative talking points on foreign policy, including indirectly calling President Obama "evil" — by saying that "opinions are always dangerous" and have no place at his university.

Piper's criticism of modern academia as a bubble of the like-minded is ironic, given that his college will only hire professors who agree with its interpretation of Christianity. He presents himself as a champion of academic freedom. But if his college were enforcing liberal values rather than conservative ones, he'd quickly be dismissed as overly politically correct.

Most of the coverage of college students' sensitivities has been about students on the left, who are paying an increasing amount of attention to historic injustices based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. But Piper's blog post, and his anecdote about a student who felt "victimized" by a sermon, is a reminder that trying to censor ideas or content you find "offensive" is in no way unique to the left, and whether you see it as political correctness often depends on whether you agree.

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