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.”


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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