With the surprise election of Donald Trump, colleges have stepped in to deal with some of the fall out. The responses have ranged from therapeutic cuddle time with puppies and kittens at the University of Pennsylvania to safe spaces where students can receive counseling at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Here at Columbia Law School, we’ve had student senate sponsored — meaning student fee sponsored — “safe spaces,” though without the free psychological counseling. I think we’re all adults and we can handle disappointment the way we normally do by turning to friends, family and ranting on social networks.
At law school, instead of safe spaces, I’d like to see more talks from experts and professors on how they think Trump’s policies will affect, say, international trade, the markets, immigration, and so on, and what the appointment of a particular cabinet member means going forward. One of the best aspects of attending law school are the daily lunch talks that often feature some of the country’s top experts in their respective fields. A professor at the school will often be invited to give comments or ask probing questions. True, most of these lunch talks are about scoring some free pizza, but when many are expecting a sea change in American politics and policy these opportunities for learning and discussion are especially useful and important.
For people frustrated with a Trump presidency, law schools should also create and expand existing clinics aimed to deal with some of the fallout from a Trump administration — for example, reduced civil rights enforcement, or increased deportation proceedings. Though law students waste a lot of time working for journals on articles no one will ever read, clinical work can make a real difference for underserved communities.
More discussions and more opportunities for involvement are surely coming, and I don’t mean to suggest that there is an inexorable trade-off between the two. But schools, professional and undergraduate, are overreaching, and our tuition and fees can be spent in more effective and relevant ways.