Ball pits for social justice warriors are apparently now a thing on college campuses. Repeatedly, the ball pits have popped up at snowflake-friendly campus events discovered by Heat Street.
We blame the impulse to coddle and be coddled — which apparently has students fully regressing to the McDonald’s PlayPlace dreams of their childhoods.
Saint Mary’s College of California will bring a ball pit to campus on Oct. 3, as part of its Mental Health Awareness and Campus of Caring Week.
Other universities have also found ball pits a perfect “safe space” to talk about feelings and other really important and serious stuff.
Last semester, the University of Central Florida included a ball pit as part of its Social Justice Week. “The campus community will have an opportunity to enter a ball pit with another person and have an engaging conversation about a variety of social justice topics,” the event page said.
Texas Tech University also got a ball pit, which it put in its “free speech area,” as part of its Diversity Week in March 2016. Advertising its event as “a flashback to your childhood,” the Residence Hall Organization said it offered “an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things about different cultures, all while sitting in a ball pit!”
At SUNY Broome last semester, students participated in a “Civility Week” event, where they “have the chance to interact with Pagans, Christians, Muslims, athletes, lesbians, nerds, African-Americans and many more groups, asking any questions they want, including those that may feel awkward or socially inappropriate outside for this program.” As they traveled from table to table, they would “have a civility passport that will be stamped.” A ball pit awaited at the end, for students to “hang out in and enjoy as you help contribute to a more culturally aware SUNY Broome,” one write-up said.
California State University-Northridge featured a ball pit as part of its speech-policing “Inclusive Language” campaign, which warned students how some words and phrases, including “crazy” and “man up,” are offensive.
And last year, Brandeis University’s social-justice focused initiative DEIS Impact booked a ball pit as part of its “Take a Seat, Break Down Barriers” event.
“Are you interested in learning about another person’s background and how it influences how they view social justice?” the university advertised. “Take a seat in our ball pit with someone new! You never know what you might learn or how your stereotypes will be challenged.”
Brandeis students lolling about in the ball pit were asked about the stereotypes about their own cultures they would like to change, also discussing how they’ve witnessed Social Justice in Action.
In a Facebook video, one student used his time in the ball pit to speak out organized labor.
The University of West Florida’s Common Ground Inclusion and Diversity Training Group, which “provides peer training and dialogue to help create safe spaces to discuss issues of difference and inclusion” also used a ball pit to help students connect.
The trend has also spread to Canada. The University of Manitoba approved a safe space during its back-to-school block party this fall but asked the organizers not to promote it too aggressively, for fear of sending the message that the rest of the event was unsafe.
The university’s caution was “rape culture at its finest,” declared one student organizer, who provided local press with a photo of herself in a ball pit. The play pit was incorporated into her safe space as “to help take anxious students’ minds off their problems.”
The average out-of-state tuition at the colleges mentioned in this article is just under $22,000. At Brandeis and Saint Mary’s College, it’s well over $40,000 a year. Suddenly, daycare looks like a bargain…
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.