Indoctrination at Delaware

By October 30, 2007

Many universities try to indoctrinate students, but the all-time champion in this category is surely the University of Delaware. With no guile at all the university has laid out a brutally specific program for “treatment” of incorrect attitudes of the 7,000 students in its residence halls. The program is close enough to North Korean brainwashing that students and professors have been making “made in North Korea” jokes about the plan. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for the program to be dismantled. Residential assistants charged with imposing the “treatments” have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists—at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught that a “racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality.”

FIRE reports that the university’s views “are forced on students through a comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment, from mandatory training sessions to ‘sustainability’ door decorations.” Residents are pressured to promise at least a 20 percent reduction in their ecological footprint and to promise to work for an “oppressed” group. Students are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings and one-on-one sessions where RAs ask personal questions such as “When did you discover your sexual identity?”. Students are pressured or required to accept an array of the university’s approved views. In one training session, students had to announce their opinions on gay marriage. Those who did not approve of gay marriage were isolated and heavily pressured to change their opinion.

The indoctrination program pushes students to accept the university’s ideas on politics, race, sex, sociology, moral philosophy and environmentalism. The training is run by Kathleen Kerr, director of residential life, who reportedly considers it a “cutting-edge” program that can be exported to other universities around the country. Residential assistants usually provide services to residents and have light duties, such as settling squabbles among students. Kerr and her program are more ambitious. She has been quoted as saying that the job of RAs is to educate the whole human being with a “curricular approach to residential education.” In this curricular approach, students are required to report their thoughts and opinions. One professor says: “You have to confess what you believe to the RA.” The RAs write reports to their superiors on student progress in cooperating with the “treatment.”

The basic question about the program is how did they think they could ever get away with this? Most campus indoctrination is more subtle, with some wiggle room for fudging and deniability. This program implies a frightening level of righteousness and lack of awareness. But the RAs have begun to back away a step or two. After telling the students the program is mandatory, the RAs sent an email saying the sessions are actually voluntary.

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Schools: University of Delaware