It remains a mystery why a campus so enamored with authentic discussion would permit Under1Roof—whose very name publicizes conformity of belief—to continue. Under1Roof indoctrinates new Columbia students into the liturgy of “inclusive community,” and although the aims of this program are admirable, its means are decidedly reprehensible.
As I watched my Under1Roof discussion unfold, what struck me most was how people’s stories became more and more alike. What were once proudly individual life stories slipped into a one-size-fits-all narrative about inequality. For example, one girl from the rural Midwest at first spoke positively of her experience growing up on a farm, but by the middle of the session her story had completely changed. She spoke again, now teary-eyed about how she had to live with narrow-minded people and how she was so happy to be here at Columbia in such an open-minded community. Under1Roof preaches that most ideas that deviate from the consensus are “hateful,” and because it is run in a group setting, there emerges a tremendous social pressure to modify one’s beliefs to fit the consensus, or else one runs a high risk of being labeled a pariah. Under1Roof claims to promote diversity and open-mindedness (they remind you of this frequently), but in my experience the majority of students walk out without questioning the consensus beliefs into which they were just indoctrinated.
Ultimately, Under1Roof serves the purpose of inoculating the Columbia campus against disruptive ideas. Quite shrewdly, it introduces a common vocabulary of “safe space,” “open mindedness,” and “allies” to then define boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable to believe. By controlling the language, Under1Roof controls the argument. Amidst an ocean of ideas, Under1Roof restricts itself to a small island. And while this island may be unspoiled and the oceans may be rough, if Under1Roof actually seeks diversity and open-mindedness it must sail beyond its comfort zone.
Trevor is a sophomore in Columbia College.