Tag Archives: orientation

Harvard, Where Civility Trumps Free Speech

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Harvard’s Dean of Freshmen Thomas Dingman has managed to circumvent the brouhaha he created last year with his “kindness pledge.” To recap: In the fall of 2011 Dean Dingman drew the wrath of former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis, as well as the mockery and criticism of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education(FIRE) and the media, when he pressured incoming students to sign a pledge to “act with integrity, respect, and industry, and…civility” and to believe that “the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment.” Dingman posted the pledge with signatures affixed near dormitory entrances where all could see who had surrendered to this strange attack on freedom of conscience and who had not. Dean Dingman eventually caved under the pressure and agreed to take down the signature lists, although not the text of the pledge itself.

We now know that Dean Dingman’s retreat was merely a tactical one. He was not persuaded by his critics’ arguments against pressuring college students to publicly display their personal and ideological opinions, especially when the pressure was to announce belief in the Dean’s own personal views. Dingman must be unfamiliar with the sordid centuries-long history of authoritarian figures requiring the less powerful to mouth officially-approved views. And so this year, without any public pre-announcement (which doomed last year’s thought-reform efforts because it gave opponents time to mount an attack),Dean Dingman managed to slip a stealth re-education program into Harvard’s freshman orientation week. It was essentially the same stuff recycled in a format where he did not have to get the students to actually sign, and so where there was no clear forum or trigger for dissent.

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The Chilly World of the Campus Male

male-college-students.jpgMales are keenly aware that when they go to college they are entering a hostile environment. Freshman orientation alone has had a distinctively anti-male cast for years: heavy emphasis on date rape, stalking, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual harassment amount to an unmistakable message that males are patriarchal oppressors and potential sex criminals. The lesson is quickly taught: only women are vulnerable, and men are the cause of their vulnerability. At one elite university, at least, the first thing a female freshman gets from the administration is a whistle to blow in the event that a rape-minded male accosts her. The freshman male is likely to acquire a new feeling about himself: he is the designated potential perpetrator until proven innocent.

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Your Orientation Stories Wanted

We’re looking for any upcoming or recent accounts of freshman orientation from those who’ve undergone the process or shortly will. PC skits, “white privilege” games, and the like, we’re interested in all of this. Any stories are welcome and encouraged. Write us or urge anyone you know who might be going through the process to write us at editor@campusmind.org

White and Non-White Freshmen to Spend Time Together!

In the early 90s we noticed that Brown and Yale were conducting separate freshman orientations for non-white students. Since then this casual segregation of new students has spread widely and has come to be seen as normal. Typically minority students arrive a week early and are instructed on how to cope with a historically white institution before the whites appear. The theory seems to be that arriving minority students need special protection and a thorough race-based analysis of themselves and American culture before facing Caucasian classmates. By the time the whites show up, minority students have bonded with one another, thus reinforcing for yet another college class the identity politics and separatism so dominant on the campuses today.
Over the years, separate orientations have gradually come to be seen as analogous to separate water fountains. So the new trend is to blur the enforced segregation a bit. Mount Holyoke has just announced a new plan: a special orientation for whites. This fall whites and non-whites will have parallel orientation programs, meeting separately and “exploring their own racial identity and thinking about power and privilege,” said Elizabeth Braun, dean of student at Mount Holyoke, then coming together as an “inclusive” group discussing (white) power and privilege. Braun said the college will look for white freshmen “with an interest in anti-racism,” as if that were a hard -to-find hobby on an elite campus today. According to Inside Higher Ed, “she said she viewed this as a valuable alternative to eliminating special orientations for minority students.” This means that even on a relentlessly PC campus like Mount Holyoke, pressure is rising against segregating freshmen along racial lines. That’s a good sign. A better sign would be a move away from freshman race-and-gender indoctrination and just have a normal orientation.

Freshmen Orientation: Is It Over Yet?

“Parents asking, ‘Where’s the trash?’ were promptly corrected by event staff and volunteers, who proudly provided composting crash courses to the thousands of students and family members.”
The “event”—described in an online news release–was the Second Annual Zero-Waste Freshman Orientation Picnic at Duke University on Aug. 19, a campus event for entering Duke students and their families that featured “local and organic foods,” biodegradable cornstarch drinking cups, and a taboo against anything plastic—all part of the latest college-administration fad, aggressive recycling in the name of “minimizing our campus footprint.”
Some of the parents of the 1,600 or so Duke freshmen who attended the picnic might have wondered why they had to undergo being “corrected” by Duke employees and student volunteers for using the politically incorrect word “trash,” or to receive “composting crash courses” from youngsters when they were already coughing up or going into hock for the nearly $50,000 a year it costs to send one of one’s offspring to Duke. Duke allows students from households with annual incomes of less than $60,000 to attend the university for free, but everybody else—and that includes the modestly upper-middle-class—has to come up with cash, mortgage the family home, or take out loans in order to pay for a Duke education. Still, Duke’s administrators seemed confident that they were teaching both parents and incoming students a welcome lesson. Boasting of the 95 percent waste-diversion rate the university had achieved at both freshman picnics by sending 5,000 pounds of organic food scraps and cornstarch cups to the compost heap instead of the dumpster, the Duke web page prophesied, “In two short years, styrofoam plates, plastic napkins and cups will be unfamiliar artifacts to all of Duke’s students.”

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