Posted by iusbvision on November 16, 2007
Imagine mandatory meetings with a dorm RA to probe you with questions like “when did you discover your sexual identity?”, “when did you discover your racial identity?”, what races would you date?” and “do you believes homosexuals have a right to marry?”
What if they told you that the term “racist” applies to “all white people living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality?” What if they told you that “those in denial use the term reverse racism to refer to hostile behavior by people of color toward whites, and to affirmative action policies, which allegedly give ‘preferential treatment’ to people of color over whites” and then they told you that anyone who ever claims reverse racism is themselves a racist?
What if you resisted the indoctrination or answered the questions with “none of your business” and you were then put on a list of students whose attitudes were best to worst and those who were on worst were recommended for more “treatment?” The list would then be circulated throughout the resident affairs system.
This and a great deal more is what University of Delaware students have been subjected to for the last four years. According to U. of D. student Bill Rivers, the program started with floor meetings with the RA where you are told “the way you think about the world is racist and wrong, and the way we think is right.” Group sessions lead by trained RA’s lead the students though “exercises” to show how being white means you are a racist and an oppressor.
Fortunately, students, parents and two professors from U. of D. contacted FIRE – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (thefire.org). FIRE conducted an investigation for months and then sent a letter to U. of D. President Pat Harker demanding that the program be dismantled. http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/8555.html?PHPSESSID=277564af9610503438c900970b9dcb8b
In response, Dr. Michael Gilbert, the Vice President of Student Life wrote FIRE denying that there was any indoctrination program, and that the residence education program was voluntary and was only meant as encouragement. Unfortunately for Dr. Gilbert, FIRE had already collected hundreds of pages of documentation on the program proving otherwise.
Here are some examples from the resident curricula:
Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will participate in monthly community meetings that are designed to provide knowledge about contemporary global issues and prompt action. For example, students will evaluate their consumption patterns in an attempt to reduce it apartment by apartment. Furthermore, students will be asked in the floor meeting setting to choose a project for change.
At Dickinson in the spring, “Each student would be asked to make a commitment to reduce their [ecological] footprint by at least 20% before the next one on one meeting.” At the Christiana Towers complex, among the Junior Learning Outcomes are that “Each student will act on the internal belief that societal problems are everyone’s responsibility.” (Sources: Sendy E. Guerrier, “Dickinson Complex Curriculum”; Dena Kniess, “Christiana Towers Complex Curriculum.”)
It is vitally important that the environment is one which does not allow students to passively miss what is occurring. Students should be confronted with this information at every turn and understand the interconnectedness of everything that is presented to them. This is one of the benefits inherent in working in the residence hall environment, the numerous points of contact. The environment is rich with opportunities to let students know what we consider important and leave a mental footprint on their consciousness. (Emphasis added.) (Source: Sendy E. Guerrier and Licinia B. Kaliher, “Rodney Complex Curriculum.”)
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. (Source: 2007-2008 curricula for the individual residence complexes)
Each room door in the complex will have a door decoration that has a representation of the interlocking circles of the triple bottom line. (Source: 2007-2008 curricula for the individual residence complexes)
As a means to take action, students will become engaged in the Adopt-a-Rainforest project. (Source: 2007-2008 curricula for the individual residence complexes)
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. (Source: 2007-2008 curricula for the individual residence complexes)
In the second floor meeting in late March, students will take action by advocating for a sustainable world. (Source: 2007-2008 curricula for the individual residence complexes)
The RA’s would send out emails such as the following:
Every semester we are required to hold a 1-on-1 session. This gives us, the RA’s, a chance to know how everyone’s doing and where everyone stands on certain issues or topics. Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!!
I just wanted to remind you all that floor meetings ARE mandatory. While I am a very understanding person, there is NO WAY that HALF of you weren’t able to make it last night. Also, NONE of you e-mailed me about prior commitments. While I hate to do this, I’m going to have to set some ground rules…
Fire responded to Vice President Gilbert’s letter stating that it “is a brazen misrepresentation of Delaware’s program. The university’s use of the word “encourage” is highly misleading given the lengths—far beyond ‘encouragement’—to which the university goes to ensure that all students in its residence halls participate in the educational program. For example, after an investigation revealed that—in the university’s own words—males demonstrated ‘a higher degree of resistance to educational efforts,’ the Rodney complex chose to hire ‘strong male RAs.’ Each such RA ‘combats male residents’ concepts of traditional male identity,’ in order to ‘ensure the delivery of the curriculum at the same level as in the female floors.’ (Emphases added.)”
FIRE also pointed out that “The entire curriculum is rife with the language of ‘students will,’ ‘students must,’ ‘each student will’.” Since linking to the residence curricula U. of D. has removed the documents from their web server.
According to Dr. Linda Gottfredson, a professor at U. of Delaware, students who did not show up were tracked down and told to go to the meetings. “They asked the students intimate questions that I would get fired for asking a student. They demanded that students publicly state their beliefs and give reasons for them and those who were ‘wrong’ were pressured to tow the ideological line. One such exercise put students who thought gay marriage was a right on one side of the room and those who opposed it on the other side.”
When Dr. Gottfredson starting asking questions about the program the university told her that it was merely research. Dr. Gottfredson stated, “If its research they need to go through human subjects review boards, then the University stated that they only needed to do that if they published the materials which is absolutely false.”
Says Dr. Gottfredson, “The things that were happening on our campus were to teach students that the American society is a massively oppressive society and many of the floor exercises were designed to do that and that whites in particular are the oppressors and white students and males [who] were also singled out have to understand how oppressive they are. So it is indoctrination into an ‘us verses them’, an oppressor verses victim” and “when [genuine] debate would break out the RA would shut it down.”
“This program was lauded by several professional organizations. American College Personal Association and the National Association of Student Personal Administrators, whose web sites seem to be full of this sort of approach to the ‘treatment’ of students in college and residence halls in particular” Dr. Gottfredson said.
Friday, the University of Delaware announced that it is terminating the residential education program, but Dr. Gottfredson still has concerns. “The RA’s have been intensively trained to administer this type of ‘treatment’ and they have a huge infrastructure to administer this ‘treatment’. That is hundreds of RA’s and dozens of their supervisors who have been trained to think in these ways so it is going to take a lot of effort and monitoring to end this program.”
The student who ranked “the worst” and told the RA “none of your business” when they started asking the personal questions was a female immigrant from Russia. Oh the irony.