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Update: U Del’s residence program is overtly political. It’s all in what they choose to emphasize.
I’m up to about 26 pages in the Russell Complex program document. If anyone else wants to take a crack at it, here it is.
Update: Check this out — the program convinces otherwise happy legal immigrants that they’re being oppressed in the mean old United States. This is from page 13 of the same document quoted below.
Nice. How oppressed can you be if you didn’t notice it for 12 years?
On Wednesday, the University of Delaware responded to allegations that it is running a mandatory indoctrination program via its student housing. UDel responded that, first, the program isn’t mandatory and, second, it wasn’t intended to indoctrinate anyone. The university did concede that some of the program’s administrators have taken it too far, and their actions are under review.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) responds today.
November 1, 2007
FIRE is shocked and disappointed that the University of Delaware has chosen to defend its invasive and unconstitutional residence life education program. Rather than immediately renounce and dismantle what the university itself calls a “treatment” program for students living in its residence halls, the school has chosen instead to obfuscate, deny, and distort the program’s intention, its operation, and its effect.
Vice President for Student Life Michael Gilbert raises several erroneous and misleading points in response to FIRE’s October 29 letter that demand an immediate answer. Below is a list of assertions from Gilbert’s letter, followed by FIRE’s rebuttal of each claim.
1) “Your letter asserts a number of conclusions that can be supported by a selective citation of documents, but are not actualized.”
FIRE’s Response: FIRE unequivocally stands by its description of the University of Delaware’s “curriculum” for student housing residents. We invite the public to view the full curriculum of the residence life program—available in PDF format on our website—in its entirety, and to judge for themselves whether we have misrepresented any aspect of the nature of that program through selective quotation. In fact, as readers will see upon examination, the concerns that we have raised pervade every one of the hundreds of pages that constitute the University of Delaware’s residence life curriculum.
2) “Students are not required to participate in any residential activity, educational program, or to maintain the University provided nametag on their door.”
FIRE’s Response: This assertion is directly contradicted by direct quotations from the university’s own materials. As we have demonstrated, public and internal documents alike stress time and again that “every student” must be reached. As an RA wrote to students about one-on-one sessions, “Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!!” Moreover, the philosophy of the program is defined explicitly as being distinct from that of the “voluntary” program model. Additionally, the entire residence hall environment is manipulated so that students cannot avoid persistent exposure to the university’s approved messages.
Additional examples abound. All quotes are from the 2007-2008 curricula for the individual residence complexes. At the Dickinson complex:
· “All students are expected to be at community meetings. As this is the primary educational delivery strategy, follow up will be expected by the RA/HD for those residents who do not attend a community meeting.”
· “Each room door in the complex will have a door decoration that has a representation of the interlocking circles of the triple bottom line.”
At the Christiana Towers complex:
· “As a means to take action, students will become engaged in the Adopt-a-Rainforest project.”
At the Russell complex:
· “In late October, students will take action by advocating for a social group that is oppressed…this sequence is capped with the second one on one between the RA and the student in which the student will recognize his/her negative stereotypes and learn how to challenge them.”
· “In the second floor meeting in late March, students will take action by advocating for a sustainable world.”
Read the rest; FIRE takes the university’s response apart point by point.
I have been in contact with a *Delaware graduate since the story broke. He has a friend who is currently a UDel student. Here’s what they have to say about the program:
From my talks with my friend, he thinks it sounds like a relatively new program (at least to him), and we both think it may be policies intended to make the university look like it is making great strides towards “inclusion” and “social justice.” But in reality, like most dorm activities, no one really shows up or cares very much. From the universities response, it sounds like some people may have taken it a bit too seriously – even for the university – and they are working to temper things a bit.
The university has a lengthy report justifying the program’s necessity and explaining its processes and procedures. I’m still going through it, but just a few pages in it becomes clear that the program is a reaction or overreaction to a perception that the campus isn’t racially diverse enough.
So the program sets out to force a little diversity.
This next clipping certainly makes the program appear to be mandatory. The columns represent what students are expected to learn in their student residence program during specific school years.
It may be that students find ways to ignore a lot of this teaching, college students being particularly adept at shirking whatever silliness their school’s muckety-mucks come up with, but the fact remains that the university’s own reports and documents back up everything that FIRE has said about it.
Ironically, the University of Delaware has attempted to counter what it believes is “systematic oppression” with a program that looks an awful lot like just another version of systematic oppression.
More: The Chronicle of Higher Education has a brief article about Delaware’s program. While it’s fine, the comments attached to it are far more interesting. The first two are illuminating, as they come from within the university and within the program itself.
1. I am so happy that FIRE blew open this case. I work in the student affairs office and the place went crazy when the letter from FIRE arrived. THe truth is that they created a well intended program, but crossed the line in many ways. Yes until this week the program was mandatory and they have temporarily suspended the mandatory nature of it, but once the attention goes away especially with Parents Weekend arriving they want to look good. Boy can they lie.
— Marie Oct 31, 10:09 PM
2. I have been an RA for the past two years and have not been comfortable with this program. It has gotten out of hand and demanding of students. Yesterday I was approached to be an advocate of the program. Several of my RA friends have been asked to be available for talking with the press. When I declined I was taken aside and told that my future as an RA was in jeopardy as was future a student. I decided to stand-up for myself. I read the university response to FIRE and they seem to want to divert the attention away from the programs flaws and talk about how FIRE make U Del. students look. Well it was U Del. students that had the backbone and insight to bring this issue up to FIRE. Go Hens! FIRE believes in us.
— Bill Nov 1, 05:59 AM
*Clarification: The email I quoted above isn’t from a former UD student. It’s from a recent grad of another university, who works with a 2006 grad from UD. My mistake.
Update: We received an email tip a few minutes ago that the program documents are being deleted from the university’s web page. That looks to be the case. Go here and look at the URL at the top of the page. FIRE put that there to identify where they obtained the document that they posted as a PDF. Now go here. That’s the URL that was on top of that PDF. The page isn’t there anymore.
If you find any similar anomalies, either email me or note them in comments and we’ll check them out.
I hesitate to call this a Soviet-style airbrushing, but given the nature of the story, it does fit.