by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For incoming freshmen at Duke next fall, it will be the luck of the draw. The university’s administration just announced that roommate assignments for first-year students will be made at random, as they once were. It’s a move that other colleges should follow.
In recent years, new students at Duke and other schools have used social media to seek out people with whom they think they’ll be “compatible” and request them as roommates. In an environment where young people are already politically and culturally polarized—and increasingly trained to believe that anyone who disagrees with them is an enemy—this policy has, predictably, insulated students from those who are different.
In a letter, Larry Moneta, the school’s vice president for student affairs, and Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, sought to reassure students about the new policy: “You’ll be fine . . . better in fact! . . . We believe that you’ll enjoy the opportunity to meet someone you’ve not previously known and will have a great opportunity to explore your roommate’s history, culture and interests.”
This plunge into the unknown—meeting people who are different, learning about their backgrounds, and arguing about the meaning of life until the wee hours—was once a rite of passage in college. But now dorm rooms must be made into safe spaces, and disagreements come with trigger warnings. Campus life itself—with deans for every grievance—seems designed to make students less tolerant of opposing ideas.