Last night I blogged on what appears for all the world to be a mandatory indoctrination program underway in student housing at the University of Delaware. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education posted copious evidence that UD forces its students toward an understanding that all white people are racist even as they’re trained to dismantle America’s “systematic oppression.”
Last night I emailed the Director of Residence Life, Kathleen Kerr, and received no response. I called her office earlier today and no one answered.
The school has responded to the criticism by letter today, which is telling in at least one way. They maintain control of the conversation to the maximum extent that they can. And while the university says that their program isn’t mandatory and “encourages free speech,” it strikes me as a whitewash of an indefensible program and policy.
There is in fact a program within the residence halls that engages students in self –examination of the roles they hope to take in society. This effort is consistent with the mission of the University which states, “Our graduates should know how to reason critically and independently…communicate clearly in writing and speech, and develop into informed citizens and leaders.” The program is designed to encourage students to think about and to consider a number of issues, but all make their own decisions about the outcome of this reflection. FIRE’s assertion that students are told what to think is inaccurate. In common with FIRE, our institution values free speech, active voice, and open dialogue. We believe that students learn and grow in part by engaging in significant discussions on both sides of the classroom door.
I do acknowledge that there have been some missteps with the implementation of our program. This is a new effort involving over two hundred staff. As with any University educational endeavor assessment and feedback measures have been established to identify issues or concerns. Each of the issues FIRE presents are currently under review. In fact, we recently became aware that students in several residence halls were told their participation is mandatory at these activities and we have taken steps to clarify this misconception and to notify students of their rights in this area.
Michelle has more. We’ll post FIRE’s reponse as it comes in. We haven’t heard the last of this story.