Justin Deal, a U.S. Army veteran who did two two tours of duty in Afghanistan thought a “safe space” was a place where the enemy couldn’t kill you.
Then he went to Columbia University and discovered that campus culture had an entirely different and less precise idea of what constitutes “space-space culture.” Deal had never had to work with notions of “trigger warnings” or “microaggressions.”
Deal spoke with “The College Fix” and talked about the culture clash of going from six years of army life as a sniper with the 173rd Airborne to a university obsessed with not offending anyone. Deal had supposed the reports about safe spaces “were just exaggerated stories.”
He doesn’t think so anymore.
Now in his fourth year, Deal is speaking out about that safe-space culture that he says causes segregation, nullifies free speech and is toxic to the student body.
He says from what he has observed at Columbia, the university is doing a fine job of “facilitating barriers that handicap the mental and emotional growth of students,” he says.
It’s not about “the free flow of ideas,” Deal charges, but “voluntary segregation” of people based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and politics.
He notes that Columbia promotes segregation by hosting retreats for LGBTQ students and students of color, suggesting that students should only share time with people of like background or belief.
The school is hosting a “tea party event” on Monday evening this week for “transgender and non-binary faculty, staff and students to talk, teach and drink tea.”
Deal wonders how all this exclusion is any good for unity, when it just breeds division.
“These institutions are facilitating the ability of students to lock out other identity groups and only engage with people who share their same point of view. This is a very dangerous road to travel down.”
Instead, Deal suggests that universities learn something from the U.S. military, where he worked happily and successfully with people from different backgrounds than himself and was trained to respect “equal opportunity” in the workplace.
But the mission always came first. “The strength of the Army is that it teaches you to identify as a soldier first, and whatever other identity groups you belong to come second.”
That’s not happening at Columbia, Deal says, because the principle of diversity isn’t served by keeping everyone separated and feeling that their differences define them. They aren’t debating with or learning from each other.
“I would call on these institutions to stop providing resources and support for activities that promote segregation,” Deal says.