Tag Archives: Delaware

Video of the Worst College Program Ever

Don’t miss this video on the notorious freshman indoctrination program at the University of Delaware. It was produced by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and is in the running to make the top ten most-watched videos of the month. It includes the program’s leading hits, including mandatory hatred of America, the importance of talking with marshmellows in your mouth and the teaching that all whites are racist. Also check out this prize-winning article on the program by Adam Kissel of FIRE: “Please Report to Your Resident Assistant to Discuss Your Sexual Identity—It’s Mandatory!” and my own Minding the Campus article on the subject “Brainwashing 101”.

Delaware Indoctrination: You Haven’t Heard It All

The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education is set to release (mid-day Friday) a compendious report by Adam Kissel on the Delaware Residential Life Program. If you haven’t followed this rank system of indoctrination (now happily suspended) the FIRE report is a comprehensive and sobering account of the roots and influences of the Delaware system.

Most importantly, and disquietingly, the FIRE report exposes the extent to which the Delaware program was by no mean isolated – it was simply the most forceful implementation of explicitly political “educational outcomes” encouraged by the American College Personnel Association for all colleges. Once instituted, the Res Life system became, most egregiously, a model for the ACPA and other “res life” professionals. Here’s Kissel on the topic:

ResLife was so proud of its achievements that the University of Delaware began to hold annual Residential Curriculum Institutes for trusted counterparts from around the United States and Canada. Over 70 people from more than 35 schools registered for the first one in January 2007, which focused on the university’s cutting-edge “curricular approach.” The institute was cosponsored by the ACPA, which sent its president, Jeanne S. Steffes, to be the opening speaker. Then—University of Delaware President David Roselle was on hand to welcome the participants, and the keynote address by Marcia Baxter Magolda of Miami University of Ohio was sponsored by Delaware’s Office of the Provost and its Academic and Student Affairs Council.

Residence Life staff, some of them sporting Ed.D. degrees from the university’s own School of Education, also began publishing articles about the cutting-edge methods of the curriculum—without quite revealing the sustainability agenda. For instance, in the November–December 2006 issue of About Campus, a magazine for college and university educators, Kerr and Associate Director of Residence Life James Tweedy published “Beyond Seat Time and Student Satisfaction: A Curricular Approach to Residential Education.” In that article, Kerr and Tweedy discuss their desired “learning goals,” which include requiring each student to, among other things, “explore societal privilege and the experiences of those disadvantaged in our democracy,” “explore social identity privilege,” and “explore class privilege.” They also—creepy as it sounds—discuss potential improvements to the program, such as “the possibility of identifying behavioral factors that can be observed and recorded by hall staff members.”

The Delaware program may be gone, but its advocates are still legion. The report is essential reading on an impulse to indoctrinate still far from dormant. Check in for the full document tomorrow.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, catch up with John Leo’s “The Worst Campus Codeword”.

Unsustainable? A Defense Of ResLife At Delaware

The Faculty Senate at the University of Delaware is meeting later today to discuss approving the controversial Residence Life (ResLife) proposal for educational programming in the residence halls. The faculty should approve the proposal, partly because it’s a good idea, but primarily because academic freedom is endangered whenever voluntary educational programs are banned. Conservative critics of the program are demanding censorship of ideas they dislike, and the Faculty Senate at a free university must not participate in such repression.

The only relevant question is whether the ResLife program violates the rights of students by compelling them to participate or censoring their views. There is not even a shred of evidence that this is the case, and the program explicitly says otherwise. There is no compulsion to participate or agree, there is no grading, there is no threat at all to a student’s academic progress or to a student’s ability to remain in a residence hall. In terms of compulsion, there is no there there, and no amount of hyperbolic fantasizing about what might happen can change this fact. The fact that in the past there were some minor issues about intrusive questions being asked of students by RAs is irrelevant to the consideration of this current program.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) claims, “Saying that the programming will be optional is hard to swallow. After all, how can a freshman, first day on campus, opt out at a time of great social pressure to do the activities everyone else is doing, and without full knowledge of what the program really entails?” Easy: stay in your room, hang out with other people, and ignore what the ResLife staff does.

FIRE is infantilizing college students, treating them like dumb puppies who will follow administrators mindlessly if any programming is allowed in residence hall. This is demeaning and insulting to all students, since it presumes that students would be better off with nothing to do rather than running the “risk” of being pressured to attend an event.
It is the liberal content of the program that FIRE and other conservative critics object to. FIRE argues that ResLife’s proposal is “soaked in a highly politicized social and political agenda.” I agree. It is a politicized agenda. Virtually all intellectual activity has a politicized agenda, because important ideas are political. ResLife promotes social justice and civic engagement, and these are political values (albeit not very radical ones). I think these are good political values, and conservatives disagree, but that doesn’t matter. If ResLife was proposing to promote abstinence and other conservative values, I might disagree with them, but I would never seek to ban any of their activities. Instead, I would express my views and organize activities that reflect my values. So why won’t these conservative groups try counterspeech instead of suppression?

Continue reading Unsustainable? A Defense Of ResLife At Delaware

Unsustainable? No, Wilson Is Wrong

[Read John K. Wilson’s defense of Delaware ResLife here]

The University of Delaware Office of Residence Life has tricked another outsider, John K. Wilson, into believing that its proposal to run a highly politicized indoctrination program for over 7,000 students in the school’s residence halls is actually just a free exploration of diverse views in a spirit of open debate. Anyone who knows the facts on the ground knows that this is not so.
For Wilson, “The only relevant question is whether the ResLife program violates the rights of students by compelling them to participate or censoring their views. There is not even a shred of evidence that this is the case.” Not only is this dead wrong (there is plenty of evidence that students were compelled to participate and even had reports filed against them when they did not “correctly” participate), Wilson fundamentally misrepresents the proposal, last year’s program, and the critics. The problem for his argument is that the evidence for indoctrination and mandatory participation is everywhere.

The ResLife directors are the same people who did everything they could to make students aware it was mandatory, while claiming to their superiors it was not. RAs were instructed to tell students that the programming was mandatory. RAs wrote, for instance, about floor meetings, “Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!” Last year’s 500 pages of documentation contain many strong assertions that every student “must” be reached with ResLife’s agenda. ResLife advertised an “every-student” model as opposed to the traditional model of residence hall programming. Can ResLife now be trusted with highly politicized educational programming in the very place where students live, socialize, do work, and sleep?

Continue reading Unsustainable? No, Wilson Is Wrong

Delaware Indoctrinators: They Just Won’t Stop

Substantial opposition to the proposed new version of the University of Delaware indoctrination program turned up at Monday’s meeting of the faculty senate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the senate will take up the issue again next week and the indoctrinators may still win.

Professor Jan Blits of the Delaware affiliate of the National Association of Scholars writes: “Things went much better than I had expected. The discussion will be continued next Monday. Most of the people who spoke (and there was a large number) were on our side. Students were very helpful. They will return next week. Everything seemed to fall into place. The odds are still against us, but not nearly as long as I originally thought.”

Both students and faculty spoke with some passion against the Residential Life proposal. Both argued vehemently that the concept of “sustainability” running through the voluminous ResLife prose has little to do with the environment and a great deal to so with imposing political dogmas.

A genuine howler came from Professor Matt Robinson, chairman of the faculty senate student life committee who presented the ResLife plan. “The concept of sustainability, that’s only speaking in terms of (the) environmental,” he said. Apparently he is not familiar with the
ResLife program’s listed goals for 2008-200. In these goals, no environmental concern is mentioned; everything revolves around the social plan behind the “sustainability” codeword -changing the beliefs and attitudes of students.

Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote a Monday open letter to the university faculty, saying “I strongly believe that ResLife is attempting to use the faculty to restore its highly politicized and unabashedly coercive ‘sustainability’ curriculum. It is intended to be indoctrination into an ideology. The proposal offers on meager, halting respect for the private conscience of UD students.” Kissel, a graduate of the University of Delaware, wrote that the ResLife officials took every opportunity – one-on-one sessions, bulletin boards, parties, etc. – to pressure students.

Kissel reports ResLife, which removed some potentially embarrassing material from its site last fall, has now removed yet another document. In the missing document, a diversity official under the plan is held responsible for “resource development” covering oppression, prejudice reduction, heterosexism, ageism, racism, HIV/AIDS awareness and “multicultural jeopardy,” whatever that is.

Alien Creature Not Yet Dead

The creators of the notorious indoctrination program at the University of Delaware are back with a new version of their astonishingly coercive plan. Call it Indoctrination II. This time around, they pose as respectful and hovering parental substitutes, promising to do something about student homesickness, offering helpful advice on how to study for final exams, sponsoring video game tournaments and even planning a show-and-tell day (Residents will be asked to bring one of their favorite material possessions to floor meeting and will have the opportunity to discuss what it means to them…). The idea that students might prefer to be left alone in their dorms, not regimented into a pseudo-educational program run by residential assistants and assorted bureaucrats (with no input from faculty) does not seem to occur to the busy indoctrinators.

In the original residential life program, attendance was mandatory, with penalties for missing a training session made clear, though the bureaucrats later claimed that the program had been voluntary all along. Now, with niceness as its watchword, the office of residential life says “Students will not face penalties, perceived or real, for failing to engage in residential activities and programs.” The proposed new program, which will be accepted or rejected by the faculty senate on May 5th, seems very much like the old one, with cosmetic changes to make it more palatable. The old one frankly pressured students into accepting the values that the university wanted them to have. (Sample: “students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression.”) The new version is a bit more subtle and vague enough to deflect some criticism (“Exploring concepts of citizenship is a meaningless activity in the residence halls in the absence of solid strategies for the development of residential communities.”) The topic “Gay Marriage & Civil Unions” was changed to “How do you define love?”

Heavy emphasis is still placed on “sustainability,” the deliberately vague term that masks a liberal-to-radical cultural and social program that the residential life officials clearly believe should be accepted in toto by students. Adam Kissel, who analyzes the Delaware program for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) does not believe the new program will be open or optional. He writes: “Simply calling the indoctrination ‘optional’ does not absolve ResLife (and ultimately UD and its faculty) of responsibility for the coercive pressure on students to conform to a highly specific set of view on a wide variety of social and political issues. ResLife can no longer be trusted on such matters.” The Delaware Association of Scholars has weighed in too, arguing that the program usurps the faculty’s historic prerogative to oversee education at the university. A statement by the association called the new version “little more than a re-tread” of the old one. “The proposed program still tries to change students’ ‘thoughts, values, beliefs and actions,’ while focusing on ‘student learning outcomes.’ (It) simply hides the original program’s intent in different language. Old program, new words.”

More Delawares?

The National Association of Scholars has a question: “How many Delawares are there?” The reference is to the indoctrination scandal at the University of Delaware, which is very likely not an isolated case. NAS executive director Peter Wood has announced an investigation to see whether Delaware’s “education program” in student residence halls (in plain English ” mandatory ideological brainwashing”) is happening at other colleges and universities around the country.

Delaware’s Program has been held up as a model for other campuses, and Wood notes that one of the key advisers who helped Delaware devise its program has had contacts with numerous other universities, ostensibly to provide similar advice. NAS will provide both short and long postings on its site as evidence comes in and will work toward a thorough systematic study.

NAS will also keep its focus on the University of Delaware, which has suspended but not canceled its offensive program. Peter Wood says: “We will know the University is serious about mending its ways when it replaces the administrators who created and condoned this debacle.” High on the NAS list of concerns is Delaware’s vice president Michael Gilbert who defended the indoctrination as fully in accord with the university’s mission “to cultivate both learning and the free exchange of ideas,” a truly Orwellian assessment.

The NAS investigation will be conducted by Tom Wood of the California Association of Scholars (no relation to Peter Wood). Tom Wood says the convergence of trends and views that gave birth to the Delaware program are “widespread, indeed almost normative” on many other campuses. He lists four such trends: 1) the view that minorities suffer from institutional or systemic racism, 2) many administrators now feel it is part of their duties to combat racism, 3) the view that education must be transformational for students, which opens the door to imposing views that the university wants to have embraced, and 4) the view that instruction must be integrated into dorm life as well as classroom life in a “total immersion” effort.

Tom Wood says: “All four components of this constellation were present at the University of Delaware, and each contributed to the fiasco of that university’s facilitation training program.” He asks for help: “If you are concerned about a similar program or campus that may be taking a walk on the wild side, kindly let us know.”

We suggest reports from campuses that supply officials to the American College Personnel Association’s commission for housing and residential life. That’s an umbrella group that promotes residence hall programs. It is chaired by Kathleen Kerr of the University of Delaware, a central figure in that university’s scandal. A list of ACPA officials and their institutions can be found here. Other groups in the field are the Association of College and University Housing Officers International and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Tom Wood can be contacted at nasonweb@nas.org
Peter Wood can be contacted at pwood@nas.org

The Unbalanced University

In my last essay for Minding the Campus, I discussed how faculty indifference may have contributed indirectly to the establishment of the University of Delaware’s now notorious residence hall re-education program. If so, we should consider this a crime of omission rather than a crime of commission. This perspective on the problem either differs from or supplements the claims of many critics of higher education, who blame ideological agendas among faculty as the major cause of campus politicization.

A panel discussion/debate in October between Stephen Balch and Harry Lewis at the Pope Center in North Carolina highlighted this disagreement. The panel dealt with the problems besetting liberal education, focusing on education’s aimlessness and failure to instill knowledge and respect for free institutions. Balch and Lewis agreed on several things, but offered two different slants on the ills of higher education. Comparing the views of Balch and Lewis can help us to clarify and refine the problem of politics in higher education today.

Balch, the distinguished president of the National Association of Scholars who recently was awarded the National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office, blamed the ills of liberal education on politicized faculty. According to Jay Schalin’s report of the panel, Balch argued that higher education is failing “because it has adopted a left-wing ideology that is at odds with our traditions. The university system, with its population of impressionable young people, is naturally attractive to people with ‘an inclination toward visionary and utopian thinking,’ and these utopians feel that the purpose of education is to ‘move people toward their visions.”

Continue reading The Unbalanced University

Where Was The Faculty?

A lot has been written about the details of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, and the ways in which it has bullied students and residential assistants to accept regnant orthodoxy. The nation’s collective hat should go off to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for exposing this program, and for compelling the university to back down – at least temporarily. The episode brings to mind last spring’s heated debate in the Chronicle of Higher Education over whether FIRE was too extreme in its attacks on higher education, and whether FIRE had outlived its usefulness. One case is not statistical proof, but the fact remains that without FIRE, this remarkably repressive program would still be in effect.

I want to address a broader issue in the Delaware case that has not attracted enough attention thus far: the role of non-faculty members in promoting the politicization of higher education. Kathleen Kerr, a mastermind of the Delaware program, is director of residential life for the University of Delaware. Interestingly, as John Leo has recently pointed out, she is also the chairperson of the American College Personnel Association’s Commission for Housing and Residential Life – a group with connections to universities across the country.

Continue reading Where Was The Faculty?

Where Are The News Media?

Stuart Taylor’s brilliant rant in this week’s National Journal (“Academia’s Pervasive PC Rot”) says “the cancerous spread of ideologically eccentric, intellectually shoddy, phony-diversity-obsessed fanaticism among university faculties and administrators is far, far worse and more inexorable than most alumni, parents, and trustees suspect.”

There’s an obvious explanation of why so many university watchers don’t seem to know what’s going on: the news media are extremely reluctant to report on what the increasingly coercive diversity lobby is doing to the campuses.

The brainwashing and indoctrination at the University of Delaware (and anyone who has read the voluminous documents in the case knows that use of these words is surely fair) has been pervasively reported on conservative blogs and right-wing radio. But the left has been silent and the mainstream media have almost universally avoided telling alumni, parents and trustees what is going on. Only a few news outlets covered the story. The Wilmington News Journal ran a piece headlined “Some Made Uneasy by UD Diversity Training”, thus reducing indoctrination to discomfort. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a similarly soft report that used the headline word “unsettled” instead of “uneasy.” The story’s lead: “When University of Delaware freshmen showed up at their dorms this semester, their orientation included an exercise aimed at bridging cultural

Continue reading Where Are The News Media?

Brainwashing 101

More on indoctrination at the University Of Delaware.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent Patrick Harker, the president of the University, a voluminous set of papers on how their residence life program was run. “Hundreds of pages, without exception, are about how to indoctrinate students,” school of education professor Jan Blits told the campus student paper, the Review. “What’s surprising is how open they are about it.” Blits acquired the papers from the residence life program by simply asking for them. Kathleen Kerr, the director of residential life for the university “was so proud of the program she just handed them over,” he said. Blits, head of the university’s chapter of the National Association of Scholars, and another professor at the school of education, Linda Gottfredson, have been cooperating with FIRE to get the story out. Gottfredson said: “Residential Life has the whole person and they try to change beliefs – the heart and soul of a person – which is exactly what totalitarian institutions do. This is a national issue and FIRE is not finished.”

Kerr is currently chair of the American College Personnel Association’s commission for housing and residential life. ACPA’s site lists 28 residential life officers from colleges and universities across the country, including the University of Texas, Oberlin, the University of Maryland, Rutgers, Brandeis and Michigan State, though it is not clear that these institutions are engaged in any indoctrination. The national group’s ethical code says that “respecting the rights of persons to hold different perspectives” is essential.

Continue reading Brainwashing 101

Indoctrination At Delaware

Many universities try to indoctrinate students, but the all-time champion in this category is surely the University of Delaware. With no guile at all the university has laid out a brutally specific program for “treatment” of incorrect attitudes of the 7,000 students in its residence halls. The program is close enough to North Korean brainwashing that students and professors have been making “made in North Korea” jokes about the plan. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for the program to be dismantled.

Residential assistants charged with imposing the “treatments” have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists – at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught 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.”

Continue reading Indoctrination At Delaware