The writer is a student and former residential assistant at DePauw University and a summer intern at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Her comments here are excerpted from a FIRE fund-raising letter – JL
During the week-long series of RA training events, my fellow RAs and I were lectured repeatedly about white privilege, racism, sexism, and every other “ism.” My peers who questioned the information were silenced immediately or heckled for their refusal to accept the dogmatic views of our superiors.We were told that “human” was not a suitable identity, but that instead we were first “black,” “white,” or “Asian”; “male” or “female”; and, perhaps most alarming of all, “heterosexual” or “queer.” We were forced to act like bigots and spout off stereotypes while being told that that was what we were really thinking deep down. I was appalled, and I hadn’t even been forced to drag my residents through the same thing … yet.
When my residents arrived, I was required to escort them through a mandatory interactive live performance, “Tunnel of Oppression.” As we walked through the halls of the house in which the performance was held, we were taught different lessons by inference through the “realistic” demonstrations in each room, including “religious parents hate their gay children,” “Muslims will find no friends on a predominantly white campus,” “white people believe all black women are ‘welfare mamas,'” “all overweight women have eating disorders,” “gays and lesbians should fear being ‘outed’ by their partners if they leave an abusive relationship,” and so on. I looked at my residents and saw some students realizing the stereotypes they would have to fight, and others of various minority groups feeling hopeless and ashamed of their place on the campus they were about to call home for four of the most formative years of their lives.
I was enraged. Not only did this brainwashing program go against DePauw’s own promise of freedom of conscience, it promoted an environment where there is a “right” and a “wrong” way of thinking. But more than just telling us what to think, DePauw told us what we should believe deep down. Instead of inspiring students by fostering free and open debate, DePauw was–and still is–indoctrinating its students.