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What’s wrong with the University of Delaware? Update: The school responds

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 31, 2007 04:05 PM

Residential life on elite college campuses has been infected with political correctness for decades. Ethnic segregation in dorms and at graduation. Mixed bathrooms. “Safe spaces” protecting sexual minorities from hearing any criticism of their lifestyles. I lived through it in the ’90s, but it has gotten progressively worse. What’s reportedly going now on at the University of Delaware takes the cake. Those who dissent from left-wing orthodoxies now must submit to “treatment.” The vigilant group FIRE blows the whistle:

The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.

“The University of Delaware’s residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students’ private beliefs,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

The university’s views are forced on students through a comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment, from mandatory training sessions to “sustainability” door decorations. Students living in the university’s eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a “diversity facilitation training” session at which RAs were taught, among other things, that “[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.”

The university suggests that at one-on-one sessions with students, RAs should ask intrusive personal questions such as “When did you discover your sexual identity?” Students who express discomfort with this type of questioning often meet with disapproval from their RAs, who write reports on these one-on-one sessions and deliver these reports to their superiors. One student identified in a write-up as an RA’s “worst” one-on-one session was a young woman who stated that she was tired of having “diversity shoved down her throat.”

According to the program’s materials, the goal of the residence life education program is for students in the university’s residence halls to achieve certain “competencies” that the university has decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of “citizenship.” These competencies include: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.”

At various points in the program, students are also pressured or even required to take actions that outwardly indicate their agreement with the university’s ideology, regardless of their personal beliefs. Such actions include displaying specific door decorations, committing to reduce their ecological footprint by at least 20%, taking action by advocating for an “oppressed” social group, and taking action by advocating for a “sustainable world.”

In the Office of Residence Life’s internal materials, these programs are described using the harrowing language of ideological reeducation. In documents relating to the assessment of student learning, for example, the residence hall lesson plans are referred to as “treatments.”

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The University of Delaware, feeling heat, has just issued a response. They claim their program actually promotes free speech:

The University of Delaware residential life educational program has been misrepresented and its goals distorted in a report generated this week by an advocacy group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

…Students in residence halls are not forced to participate, and certainly are not forced to agree with any particular point of view. Students are faced with questions, but the answers to these questions are their own. There are no “correct” answers.

“The notion that students at the University of Delaware can be coerced into any one point of view does a great disservice not only to the institution but also to the student body, which is bright, creative and represents a wide array of thought,” Gilbert said.

The residential life educational program, which has been developed with the express intent of helping students think critically and analytically, has had the input of student leaders, faculty and administrators and is continually assessed through feedback from individuals and through focus groups.

I smell CYA.

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I’m preserving screenshots and docs from the university’s residential life page, in case they mysteriously disappear:

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FIRE has much more here.

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Bryan Preston presses the university.

John Leo writes: “The basic question about the program is how did they think they could ever get away with this? Most campus indoctrination is more subtle, with some wiggle room for fudging and deniability. This program implies a frightening level of righteousness and lack of awareness. But the RAs have begun to back away a step or two. After telling the students the program is mandatory, the RAs sent an email saying the sessions are actually voluntary.”

Derbyshire: “I can’t help thinking, though, that the real culprits here are the alumni who let these horrors go on, often in buildings that have their names on them; and the damn fool parents who beggar themselves to send their kids off to these fascistic institutions.”

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