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Iowa bill named 'Suck it up, Buttercup' seeks to stop student coddling

An Iowa state representative has introduced a bill to the state legislature that would fine universities responsible for setting up 'cry rooms' and grief counseling to help students cope with election results. 

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    University of Iowa students walk past the Old Capitol building in Iowa City, Iowa. A bill introduced to the state legislature seeks to fine state-funded schools that set up 'cry rooms' and grief counseling for students unhappy with the presidential election results.
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An Iowa state representative has introduced a bill he’s named "Suck it up, Buttercup" to the state legislature, hoping to deter some protests and university counseling services related to the presidential election.

Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who represents the 3,000-resident town of Wilton near the state’s border with Illinois, put forth the bill, which intends to levy fines on state universities that fund counseling services such as "cry rooms" to help students cope with events like President-elect Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. The bill would also make those who block highway traffic subject to criminal penalties – an initiative spurred by highway shutdowns in the state during anti-Trump protests.

"That's a waste of taxpayer dollars and that also doesn't prepare kids for life," he told Fox & Friends in an interview Wednesday. "In life there's winners and losers and when your car breaks down, your kids get sick or you have to take a second job to pay your mortgage, you don't get to go to a cry zone, you don't get to pet a pony. You have to deal with it."

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The bill mirrors a larger attitude seen nationwide that has dismissed protesters and encouraged those who voted for Mrs. Clinton to “get over" her loss and accept a Trump victory. For many, especially women, minorities, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, who felt victimized by the president-elect’s language and policy proposals, the defeat is seen as more than just a political loss, but also the victory of a candidate who embodies racist, xenophobic, and sexist viewpoints that could cause them direct harm. The result has been a continuation of the campaign’s divisive nature despite calls for unity, resulting in large scale protests and acts of bigotry through vandalism and violence in a response to elections that many say hasn’t been seen in modern politics.

"The controversy reflects something more than just political partisanship," Jason Manning, a professor of sociology at West Virginia University, tells The Christian Science Monitor in an email. "I think it is another example of ... a clash of different moral cultures – what we call dignity and victimhood cultures."

Dignity culture, Dr. Manning says, is "a moral framework that downplays the importance of insults" and is less tolerant of offense and outrage. Victimhood culture, by contrast, has become more common among young people and encourages people to speak out against offensive language and refuse to accept intolerance.

That clash has played out at universities. As some spaces have moved toward a culture of inclusive and "politically correct" speech, critics have fired back, claiming that administrators are coddling students and depriving them of views that clash with their own in order to create the "safe spaces."

In this case, it's even evident in the bill's name, Manning says.

"We often point to the folk saying 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' as emblematic of dignity culture, urging people to brush off offensive words as beneath their notice," he writes. " 'Suck it up buttercup' expresses a similar type of moral attitude – one that values not reacting strongly to offenses, disappointments, or setbacks, and might view public protests as something akin to a child's tantrum."

While protestors did block a highway in response to the election, it’s unclear how the piece of the bill calling for fines against universities originated. Some professors around the nation canceled classes or postponed exams on Wednesday, but Iowa’s state-funded universities have denied allocating any funding, whether from the state or tuition, to such endeavors.

"Iowa State had a couple of opportunities for dialogue on campus (held last week, but scheduled prior to the election). These conversations didn’t require any funding," Annette Hacker, an Iowa State University spokeswoman, told the Monitor in an email. "A group of 300 or so students held a grassroots ‘Not My President’ rally last Friday. There were no university funds dedicated to that, either."

The University of Iowa had a similar response.

"The University of Iowa has over 500 registered student organizations, some of which have held events following the election. The university has not brought in additional resources beyond what student groups and campus services already offer," university spokeswoman Anne Bassett told the Monitor in a statement. "Students needing assistance have a variety of places to go for support on campus. We routinely share this list of available resources in email, on social media, and online."

Scott Ketelsen, a University of Northern Iowa spokesman, said the school "has not added and or modified any student service offerings since the legislation was introduced."

All three spokespeople declined to comment on the bill itself.

Representative Kaufmann maintains that he heard "reports" that such "cry rooms" were being set up around campuses in the state. He also acknowledges that the “brats” have a right to protest, but doesn’t approve of the ways they’ve chosen to express their dissent.

For some students around the country, protesting on campus and in their local streets are ways to “deal with it."

"This is about the fear in our community. A lot of people are very confused and upset, and our goal is to get our voices heard," Ariana Rios, a high school student in East Los Angeles, told the Monitor after staging a walkout Monday. "It’s a reassurance to our community: We will stand with you, no matter who is president."

It’s unclear how the bill will fare in the legislature, but it already faces opposition from others who find it "kind of odd."

"The legislature can be a leader," Iowa Rep. Phyllis Thede, a Democrat who told local ABC affiliate WQAD she believes the bill may threaten free speech protections. "Not by restricting them, not by criminalizing them, but by helping them – helping them get through the whole process."

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