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Why Cancel Culture on College Campuses Is Destructive-The Complete Guide

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For the past 5-6 years, social media has been an integral part of our lives. Through social media, we are able to keep in touch with friends and family, share content, and reach larger audiences much faster. However, as easy as it is to express our opinions on social media, it is just as easy for these opinions to be shamed and criticized on these platforms. 

As a result of posting in the midst of such a judgmental culture, online public shaming has been rising. This idea is known as “cancel culture” and is prevalent on most college campuses in the United States.

While it is important to call out people whose rhetoric is harmful towards others (especially celebrities who profit off of their actions), cancel culture can be extremely destructive when brought to college campuses. Here are four reasons why cancel culture on college campuses is destructive.

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1. Leaves no room for growth

This is arguably one of the most detrimental effects of cancel culture. By “canceling” a person for tweeting an ignorant remark, it also cancels the opportunity for an individual to learn and grow from their mistakes. But how could they not know what they said was wrong? Isn’t that just common sense? No.

Many college students often forget that not everyone received the same kind of education as they did and that we all grew up in different backgrounds.

For example: A queer BIPOC woman, who grew up in California, a predominantly blue state, has personal experience with the struggles and microaggressions queer women and BIPOcs face.

Additionally, she has grown up in a more liberal environment making it easier for her to understand the liberal environment of a college campus. However, a straight, white,  cis-gendered man growing up in rural Pennsylvania, a fairly homogeneous area in a red-swinging state, may not be able to understand the daily microaggressions that POCs face.

This is because he has most likely never been exposed to that environment. Therefore, if this man posts a tweet stating that he does not understand “what the big deal is” if a POC is asked, “Where are you really from?”, people should take it as an opportunity to educate him instead of “canceling” him for not being able to understand.

“If we completely cut people down every time they make a mistake or have a mistake from ten years ago, people are gonna feel like there’s no value in learning or progressing whatsoever because you are punished forever for the sins you no longer stand by,” stated Good Place actress, Jameela Jamil, when discussing the negative effects of cancel culture on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

“Ten years ago, I was problematic in my thinking, and there were loads of things I didn’t know and didn’t understand. Had I been canceled at that moment, I would have never gone on to spend all my time fighting for women’s rights or fighting for the people, who are marginalized.”

By canceling someone, you are leaving no room for them to grow from their actions or learn more. You are not only taking away their platform but also, their ability to learn from their actions.

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2. Feeds into a herd mentality

A large part of cancel culture is the herd mentality behind the process. As in many situations that involve large-scale decision-making, people often tend to go along with things due to the fact that “everyone is doing it.”

This mentality is also responsible for the immense popularity of certain fashion trends or songs. However, in the context of cancel culture, it has detrimental consequences.

“When cancel culture is enforced, it encourages everyone to gang up against one person just because everyone else is, and sometimes, without knowing the full story,”  described a student of the historically women’s college, Bryn Mawr.

“Our school is especially small and tight-knit so things like these run rampant very quickly. Information can easily be distorted with no question. I have seen this before where people will ‘cancel’ someone just because other people have, but they don’t actually know the background story or anything.” 

Small liberal arts college campuses like Bryn Mawr College are not the only places where this herd-like mentality exists.

“There was this kid in my year and nasty rumors about him started floating around and everyone took that story as truth at face value and started ‘canceling’ him without even knowing, or meeting him, myself included,” stated a student from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

“One of my good friends had become really close to him, so I met him as well. One day he opened up to me and told me his side of the story, which was completely different and made it seem like he was the actual victim.  [The fact that] he went through a second ordeal over canceling despite supposedly being the victim in the first place was saddening.”

The student describes how to this day they do not know exactly who was in the right or wrong, but emphasizes that “we never really know people and should not try to assert ourselves or make such strong judgments on their character with limited information.”

3. Does not promote tolerance

The definition of being liberal is to be open to new behavior and try and understand the viewpoints of others. College campuses are considered to be hubs of primarily liberal/ progressive thinking.

While it is great that places of education promote progress and non-traditional thinking, it often leads the student body to dismiss and ostracize individuals who are more conservative-leaning.

It feeds the “my way or the highway” mentality that fuels cancel culture. This mentality disregards the need for discussion and respect towards everyone’s beliefs.

While there are certain things that are morally incorrect on every front (i.e. sexual assault, homicide, genocide), it is not correct to shut down a person’s opinion simply because it does not match with yours.


An example of this occurred at Bryn Mawr College during the 2016 election. Andi Moritz, an 18-year-old freshman at the time, had asked on a Facebook group if anyone would like to share an Uber to a nearby Trump rally.

Bryn Mawr, being a primarily liberal-leaning school, did not take well to this post, leading to a flood of negative comments and name-calling such as “white supremacist” and “bigot”.

These comments caused her extreme emotional distress. Moritz described how she used the Suicide Hotline and emailed her teachers that she was not feeling well and would not be in class the next day. Mortiz eventually ended up leaving Bryn Mawr the next year.

“In this big bubble of people who will echo your opinion, you can throw something out there and if it’s a liberal opinion, you’ve got a ton of people who jump on and say: ‘Wow, you’re right, I agree with you.’ This is a big problem” stated Moritz.

In order for problems to truly go away, we must try to understand another’s perspective instead of “canceling” them. Trump may be an extremely controversial figure, but it is our responsibility to facilitate discussion and make sure we fully understand people’s viewpoints and intentions before publicly shaming them. 

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4. Creates animosity and escalated situations

Oftentimes, cancel culture can create extreme animosity within communities and escalate situations beyond repair. On March 4th, Micheal Carducci from the group, ‘Coming Out’ Ministries, was invited to speak at Bryn Mawr College by a student club. The event was marketed by the club as a healthy conversation about love, sexuality, and the church.

After attending the event, many students felt as if the speaker was encouraging conversion therapy, or the idea of “converting” a person in the LGBTQ+ community to a “straight” person.

The students of Bryn Mawr took it upon themselves to address the situation by expressing their grievances towards the student who invited the speaker. However, many of these comments turned into vicious comments.

Shortly after this situation occurred, Bryn Mawr’s Dean of the Undergraduate College sent out a statement to the student body saying that the speaker’s message was against the values Bryn Mawr held as an institution, but she “urges all students to be mindful of their rhetoric and how they are using social media” and that “all forms of harassment and bullying violate the Honor Code and the values of Bryn Mawr College.”

In order to preserve the anonymity of the student who invited the speaker, their name and any personal details will not be mentioned. However, Jess Chen, a recent Bryn Mawr alum and friend of the student, was willing to give a statement on the event.

Chen described how many of the people posting comments on social media did not take into account the background and cultural upbringing of the student organizing the event. She also mentioned how many people did not accept the student’s attempt to apologize.

“If you’re angry about the concept, you can be angry at the concept, but when you start attacking a student for inviting someone as a part of an event I think that gets a little ridiculous. The cyberbullying should not escape to the point where she is not safe to go to class,” stated Chen.

Upon doing deeper research on ‘Coming Out Ministries,’ it seems that the organization may encourage some problematic rhetoric. The website links videos such as Lesbian Christian Changes Her Mind, that urge members of the LGBTQIA+ community to abandon and suppress their identities.

The Bryn Mawr student body had a right to feel hurt, but not to cyberbully or personally attack the student organizer. Those who felt hurt could have facilitated an open discussion that made an effort to understand the multiple perspectives on the issue. 

But they said something very hurtful!  How can we just stand by and continue to do nothing? 

The idea behind cancel culture is not toxic in and of itself. Cancel culture was used to prevent celebrities and public figures, who endorsed hateful ideas such as racism, sexism, and homophobia from making profiting off the public.

However, it has morphed into something problematic. People have taken cancel culture to an extreme by applying it to normal people, who are not profiting off of the general public, and are thereby not taking on the responsibilities of a public figure.

Therefore, cancel culture on college campuses should switch to “call out” culture. Call-out culture is respectfully pointing out someone’s misunderstanding, explaining why their words might be hurtful, and giving them an opportunity to rethink their actions and words. Most importantly, it entails others listening to their response and apology. 

“Cancelling means De-Platforming someone and calling for their job and position of power to be taken away; often for the foreseeable future. I rarely support cancellation unless the person/ company, has done irrevocable harm or hurts more people than they help, or refuses to shift on their dangerous/bigoted views, and behavior” stated Jamil in response to the difference between cancel and call-out culture. 

Ultimately, the root of an issue does not go away simply by canceling someone. “I don’t think anyone was ever officially canceled, otherwise certain people wouldn’t have Grammys, wouldn’t have Oscars.

Certain people wouldn’t be where they are in their positions,” stated Demi Lovato, someone, who has been canceled many times before on an episode of Jameela Jamil’s Podcast, “I Weigh.” 

In order to make a significant change, it has to be slow, persistent change. It has to come from a place of understanding. Individuals must recognize that canceling does not make the problem go away, but causes it to resurface in another form.

“People seem to think that if our trauma lies in one person and if we cancel one person, then that is easier than actually addressing systemically how this issue is dealt with on-campus,” stated Jess Chen.

“[They] feel some sort of comfort in isolating the issue.” The world is not just black and white. There will always be ambiguity and multiple perspectives on an issue.

Canceling should only be used as a last resort when a person refuses to learn and acknowledge their mistake as something hurtful. It is the societal duty of our generation to promote call-out culture and “cancel” cancel culture.

How We Got Here

Social media’s influence has exploded over the past decade, and in that rapid growth, the current trend of cancel culture has started. Popular among a young and liberal generation, cancel culture is seen as a way to “weed out” people who are potentially harmful.

As more and more people use social media and its rapid-fire speed of spreading information, they popularize the practice of canceling, the concept of receipts (often screenshots of chat logs), and the need to be “woke”.

Cancel culture began from a desire to keep online communities safe. Therefore, “cancellations” are mostly to point out homophobic, racist, or sexist behavior.

The purpose is to inform one’s followers or audience about potentially dangerous people, particularly celebrities and other notable figures who have a substantial impact on the general public.

How did cancel culture become the problem that it is today? Much of the issue is the need for moral purity and lack of critical thinking— both of which are exacerbated when it comes to the masses.

People are applying cancel culture to normal people, who are not profiting off the general public in the way a celebrity or politician does. It is easier to call someone out and cancel them than it is to educate and hold a meaningful discourse.

Because cancel culture feeds into itself and affirms its own rigid beliefs, it has become less of a means to keep people safe, and more of a way to perform “wokeness”. People are more concerned with being right than being good, but it is possible to be both.

How We Move Forward

But they said something very hurtful!  How can we just stand by and continue to do nothing? 

While it is important to keep people accountable and spaces safe, it is equally important to maintain critical thinking and keep an empathetic heart. Weigh the crime and the punishment.

The use of slurs or racist rhetoric, for example, is worth far more weight than an awkward question about sex and gender. One deserves a rightful backlash, while the other is easily remedied with education.

Therefore, cancel culture on college campuses should switch to “callout” culture. Callout culture is respectfully pointing out someone’s misunderstanding, explaining why their words might be hurtful, and giving them an opportunity to rethink their actions and words.

Most importantly, it entails others listening to their response and apology. “Cancelling means de-platforming someone and calling for their job and position of power to be taken away; often for the foreseeable future.

I rarely support cancellation unless the person or company has done irrevocable harm or hurts more people than they help, or refuses to shift on their dangerous/bigoted views, and behavior,” stated Jamil, in response to the difference between cancel and callout culture. 

Ultimately, the root of an issue does not go away simply by canceling someone. “I don’t think anyone was ever officially cancelled, otherwise certain people wouldn’t have Grammys, wouldn’t have Oscars… certain people wouldn’t be where they are in their positions,” stated Demi Lovato on an episode of Jameela Jamil’s Podcast, I Weigh.  Lovato herself has been “cancelled” many times. 

In order to make a significant change, it has to be slow, persistent change. It has to come from a place of understanding. Individuals must recognize that canceling does not make the problem go away, but causes it to resurface in another form.

“People seem to think that if our trauma lies in one person and if we cancel one person, then that is easier than actually addressing systemically how this issue is dealt with on-campus,” stated Jess Chen. “[They] feel some sort of comfort in isolating the issue.” 

The world is not just black and white. There will always be ambiguity and multiple perspectives on an issue. Canceling should only be used as a last resort when a person refuses to learn and acknowledge their mistake as something hurtful. It is the societal duty of our generation to promote callout culture and “cancel” cancel culture. 

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