KKTV in Colorado Springs reported last week that a newsletter circulated on the campus of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs calling for military veterans to be banned from four-year university campuses. It is the most absurd thing I’ve seen recently (and last week was eclipse week, so there’s been a lot of absurdity about, including a headline my wife showed me about people putting sunscreen in their eyes to block the harmful rays of the sun).
The newsletter is titled “Social Justice Collective Weekly,” and the article in question was written under a pseudonym. The author of the newsletter claims that “a four-year, traditional university is supposed to be a place of learning, of safety and security.” On the surface, this seems reasonable, describing three attributes of a university: learning, safety, and security. The problem is that the author seems to have a very skewed definition of “safety and security,” one that if accepted, makes “learning” impossible. One cannot learn in an echo chamber, and a necessary component of learning is being presented with new ideas. The “safety” historically present at universities is the protection of the free exchange of ideas, not the protection of the all-knowing student from ideas that might challenge their existing presuppositions. If one’s ideology is so shallow and fragile that it cannot withstand rigorous intellectual debate, then the ideology should be revised or abandoned, not coddled. I’m currently a graduate student. I’m not spending all that time and money to be confirmed in what I know, but to learn what I don’t.
And make no mistake, the author is attempting to target and silence disagreeing ideologies. In the author’s first complaint, it is alleged that, “many veterans openly mock the ideas of diversity and safe spaces for vulnerable members of society. This is directly in contradiction to the mission of UCCS.” To this, I would reply that the idea of “safe spaces” is repeatedly mocked by a large segment of the population (not just veterans), because it is a laughable concept. As I’ve already said, universities are a place of learning, and there is no learning where there is no challenging of preexisting ideologies. If UCCS or any university makes central to its mission creating spaces to avoid such ideological collision, they are abdicating their duty as an institution of higher education.
The newsletter goes on to state that veterans “mock diversity”. Further reading makes it clear that the “diversity” in which the author is concerned with is only focused on the LGBT + half a can of alphabet soup community. “Diversity” only focused on one segment isn’t really that diverse. Now. it is true that most veterans tend to lean towards conservative ideology, and that ideology finds itself at odds with the “alternative lifestyles” that many on the left embrace and demand the rest of the world embrace. But it is not without reason. As I’ve written before, it is my position (and I think it can be proven) that such lifestyles are destructive to their adherents and contrary to God’s design for human flourishing. The author at UCCS holds the prejudiced (yes, it’s prejudiced) position that those reasons are not even worth a hearing in what should be the most free place for the exchange of ideas. The only diversity that the author is interested in is a pseudo-diversity that pushes his particular agenda.
And in doing so, the author is attempting to remove a great deal of actual diversity and do harm to a particularly vulnerable group. For instance, many veterans that attend college do so after their term of service ends on the G.I. Bill. That makes such students older than many of their counterparts. Do we not care about diversity enough to include older students? Also, veterans who separate from the military are in some ways disadvantaged in the civilian job market. Most college attendees finish school and get entry-level jobs in their early-to-mid 20s. Veterans don’t get there until much later. This puts them at a built-in disadvantage. They have to climb further, faster to reach the top of their respective organizations, since they spent many of their young working years in the military. And never mind the physical and mental trauma that veterans often have experienced and the difficulties in life they face as a result. The problems of homelessness and suicide among veterans is real. The military is a very different culture, and when one leaves it, the transition into civilian culture can be difficult. All because they took years out of their lives to serve this country, to defend the very freedoms that the author of this newsletter is so egregiously flaunting. Who is really attacking diversity? Who is really mocking the vulnerable in society? This individual is advocating broad-stroke discrimination in the name of “diversity”.
The author piles on further allegations and sweeping generalizations. “Second, many students are frightened by the presence of veterans in their classrooms. Veterans usually have an overwhelming presence in the classroom, which can distract other students.” Interesting. So, because someone is scared of certain kinds of people, they should not be allowed to be present? This seems like a similar rationale used to justify Jim Crow laws and other forms of systematic discrimination–the majority deciding it doesn’t want a certain minority around. Again, who is for diversity here?
“Finally, veterans usually are associated with extremists right-wing groups such as the tea party and the NRA.” Now, I’ll admit, there’s positions within both the tea party and the NRA that I strongly disagree with. But neither is an extremist group. What we saw in Charlottesville a few weeks back was a gathering of extremist groups. The tea party and NRA, despite their flaws, carry valid ideologies that at least deserve the dignity of being heard. This is a university. Again, free exchange of ideas. Let me ask the author, what if there was a groundswell of support for the tea party, and they gained most of the political power in this country, and decided that leftist ideologies like yours should be banned and suppressed? I suppose you would be glad that the First Amendment (the basis on which you wrote and distributed this rubbish) still exists to protect you. And it protects them, too.
Thankfully, the response to this newsletter at UCCS by both the administration and students has been largely negative. It’s good that they can sniff out this blatant hypocrisy and attempt at ideological tyranny for what it is. But this isn’t the first time we have heard such inconsistency in the name of “social justice” and it likely won’t be the last. We need to be aware that not everyone who claims to want “tolerance” and “diversity” really does. If the people who fight to keep this country free are no longer welcome in its institutions, then that freedom has perished. ♦