Outrageous indoctrination

Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007, at 9:24 AM
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  • In regards to the situation at the University of Delaware, it is unfortunate that FIRE has chosen to vilify the university with such ruthless rhetoric. In one fell swoop, FIRE has completely flipped this issue on its head, and in doing so, has been able to control the spin on the entire story.

    I am currently a senior at the University of Delaware and I was a resident assistant (RA) for the maligned Office of Residence Life for one semester last year. Not only has FIRE grossly misconstrued what is actually occurring at the university but they have added unnecessarily loaded language in their presentation of the issue which has further incited the criticism being foisted upon Delaware.

    To make clear before people paint me as a mouthpiece for the university: I am no longer working for the Office of Residence Life and I left voluntarily at the end of last semester. Also, I can only speak from my own experience and my observations of the system as a whole, and my statements do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other RAs.

    In my time working with this department, I was often at odds with many policies put in place but never did I feel that the office但*申*申s programs were 但*申*申Orwellian,但*申*申 a 但*申*申grave intrusion into students但*申*申 private beliefs但*申*申 or coercive, as FIRE portrays them. In fact, I was skeptical of the effectiveness of many of the office但*申*申s programs but never did I think they endangered students但*申*申 right to free speech or their intellectual welfare.

    To put it simply 但*申*申 the university wants to promote diversity and facilitate social tolerance among its students. There is no subversive indoctrination, no hidden agenda. The university feels, to paraphrase what I gathered from my time employed by the Office of Residence Life, that students should progress as individuals during their time spent at Delaware and feels it is responsible for exposing them to what it deems character-building social concepts and qualities.

    The university does have in place an extensive program to promote tolerance among its students living in the residence halls. Yes, it has a list of 但*申*申competencies但*申*申 it hopes students achieve in their time at the university and it does hope students embrace a notion of 但*申*申citizenship.但*申*申 However, there is no 但*申*申comprehensive manipulation但*申*申 as FIRE claims.

    In my time as an RA, I was required to attend a class titled, 但*申*申Contemporary Issues for Resident Assistants.但*申*申 The purpose of the course was to educate RAs about the range of divisive issues facing college students and to prepare RAs to deal with any problems they might encounter in working with residents. We frequently covered diversity-related topics 但*申*申 issues relating to religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, gender, etc. 但*申*申 and the purpose of the course was to learn how to be tolerant of and understand different people and situations.

    To be fair, not all of the material in the class dealt with these issues, however. We were also taught how to deal with sexual abuse, roommate-to-roommate conflicts, alcohol abuse, and a host of other issues which were relevant to working with largely underclassmen residents.

    FIRE但*申*申s main allegations for misconduct have to do with the university supposedly promoting a view that white students are to be encouraged by RAs to feel remorseful of their racist, supremacist past. This is simply not true and was never taught to me. I was never instructed to teach residents about this.

    Some of the coursework and activities were bluntly direct in their message. The university very obviously strived to instill in us near-universal tolerance and acceptance 但*申*申 or at least the cognizant awareness of what problems we might encounter in our positions and how to deal with them 但*申*申 so that we would be better equipped to do our jobs working with residents.

    However, there was no stipulation that we as students had to agree with the university但*申*申s position on these issues. In fact, few in the class (all fellow RAs) truly believed everything we were taught and felt much of the material was overstated, silly and patronizing. But none were actually against what was being taught. Most of us readily agreed that the university had the right intention 但*申*申 trying to make its students better people, which is what all universities try to do after all, right? 但*申*申 but misfired on the execution of those lessons.

    As for the 但*申*申training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs)但*申*申 that FIRE says students are supposedly required to attend: never in my experience did I see any students forced into a meeting they had an issue with or truly did not feel comfortable attending. While students were greatly encouraged to attend these meetings and these may have been promoted as mandatory, there were no consequences for absence. In fact, my meetings were attended by fewer than 50 percent of floor residents. How did I advertise them? Email notifications followed by knocking on each resident但*申*申s door to tell them when the meeting would be held. Hardly coercive, in my view.

    In general, it was a common occurrence for students to skip meetings at their leisure and there were no repercussions besides a 但*申*申please try to come next time.但*申*申 There were literally zero things we could do to punish residents, and moreso, no RAs that I knew felt the need for such punishment.

    In the one-on-one sessions, they are intended to be relatively short meetings between a resident and an RA with the hope of building a rapport between both sides to better create a 但*申*申floor community.但*申*申 The RAs were given rough guidelines as to how to conduct these meetings, but they were largely left up to the RA to plan and conduct. Yes, RAs were expected to ask somewhat-personal questions to better get to know residents, but I have never heard of a situation where students were generally offended or made uncomfortable by an RA但*申*申s questions or conversation. The entire point of these meetings is to promote a positive relationship between RA and resident, not to interrogate residents or scare them away from future interactions. Again, in my experience, these were encouraged but never forced onto residents; if a resident ever had a serious issue with this kind of meeting, I cannot see a request to be excused for personal reasons being denied.

    If anything, any problems relating to residence hall suppression of freedom of speech is due to problems relating to the work of individual RAs and not the system as a whole.

    I could go on and on with examples from my semester as an RA. From my first-hand experience, FIRE但*申*申s allegations are largely unfounded and serve only to stir a pot that is essentially non-existent. I truly hope the FIRE但*申*申s Web site re-evaluates its statements and tones down its rhetoric as to prevent the university from taking flak it does not deserve.

    -- Posted by JZ on Wed, Oct 31, 2007, at 2:21 PM
  • As I've said elsewhere,if you can't trust your people to recognize truth and live by it,cohersion and isolation isn't going to make the process easier.

    It just discredits one's own stance.

    Wrap a truth up in enough putrid rhetoric and it'll start to smell like a lie.

    Try teaching people how to think rather than what to think and show them working models of the reality you promote.

    You might turn out people who could advance the cause of truth instead of parroting an approved script.

    -- Posted by quantumcat on Wed, Oct 31, 2007, at 2:22 PM
  • "You might turn out people who could advance the cause of truth instead of parroting an approved script."

    Well said, Schr其dinger.

    -- Posted by Brian Mosely on Wed, Oct 31, 2007, at 2:45 PM
  • Arg...the posting software keeps changing the symbols, but you know what I mean, cat...

    -- Posted by Brian Mosely on Wed, Oct 31, 2007, at 2:47 PM
  • JZ, I wonder if you could address the material contained in this link from the school's own website:


    This did not come from FIRE, but from the school where you were an RA.

    -- Posted by Brian Mosely on Wed, Oct 31, 2007, at 3:03 PM
  • What is wrong with the T-G site and all the symbols where apostrophe's, when some people post word's like It's, it looks like this It*誰多遜誰多遜*誰多遜誰多遜s WHY???? Can someone fix it?

    -- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Oct 31, 2007, at 10:00 PM
  • Just a follow up: FIRE has posted the following on their website to answer Michael Gilbert, Vice President for Student Life, University of Delaware, who is defending the school's policy. FIRE uses the school's own materials to counter his arguments.


    On a side note, a representive of FIRE contacted me yesterday about this post and noted that they had received JZ's letter shown above as well, word for word.

    -- Posted by Brian Mosely on Thu, Nov 1, 2007, at 4:19 PM
  • Another update: According to FIRE, the president of the Univserity has called for a halt to the program and has ordered a review.

    In addition, the school started yesterday to pull all of the controversal stuff off their website, however, saved versions can be found at FIRE's site.

    -- Posted by Brian Mosely on Fri, Nov 2, 2007, at 11:33 AM
  • I went of the FIRE web site. FIRE seems to be a group with interests in protecting speech on college campuses. It seems they are very conservative leaning. They rate colleges and universities according to a select group of policies. The University of Tennessee has a green rating. Sewanee has a yellow rating and so does Vanderbilt. Middle Tennessee has a red rating. MTSU, among their policies, does have a policy restricting teasing and harassing females - maybe FIRE has a problem with this policy? But for the like of me, I cannot find a rating for Bob Jones University. I wonder why?

    -- Posted by Grit on Sat, Nov 3, 2007, at 9:48 PM
  • Perhaps its because when someone enrolls at Bob Jones, they know what they're paying for and want to attend a school with those type of beliefs and atmosphere. On the other hand, the Delaware school was pushing an agenda that many did not agree with and were forcing students living in the dorm to agree with only one mind set -- that all white people are racist.

    -- Posted by Brian Mosely on Mon, Nov 5, 2007, at 8:31 AM
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