First, universities need to embrace social conflicts as normal and should not try to prevent them from surfacing in order to protect campus life. Universities are experts in resolving conflicts over facts, but they are laymen when it comes to resolving conflicts over values.
Many universities make the mistake of applying the same methods to resolve conflicts over values as conflicts over facts. Whereas conflicts over facts can be resolved through science, argumentation and logic, conflicts over values are much harder to resolve since values are invariably biased.
Conflicts over values are based on disagreement regarding the validity of normative propositions. They are highly subjective and can vary from a personal opinion to a clichéd judgment. You can disagree over whether someone should be offended by what is taught in a lecture or by campus policies, but you cannot deny that his or her feelings are real.
If students, teachers and administrators alike are so amazed that other people on the campus could have a different opinion from them, wouldn’t it be a great idea to spend some more time investigating below the iceberg of the initial cause of offence instead of dismissing it?
Universities should do a better job of mapping and understanding the social divisions that currently affect campus life and look at why people feel more divided or more connected as a result of these divisions. This would improve their ability to understand the different groups who have seemingly lost touch with each other.
However, such recognition does not happen on its own, which leads us to the second point: the need to educate and train campus mediators.