Re-thinking thought reform

November 4, 2007

University of Delaware President Patrick Harker grudgungly suspended the ideological re-education program exposed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (and reported here last week.) FIRE has the story, which includes troubling accounts of threatened retaliation against students who declined to defend the now defunct “residence life” program and to demonize FIRE as an ideologically biased, conservative organization.  (In fact, FIRE is a civil liberties group that advocates for the rights of all students, regardless of ideology.)
This is a victory for freedom of speech and thought, of course, and one that demonstrates why preserving free speech is so essential.  University of Delaware officials did not terminate this program because they suddenly realized the wrongfulness of subjecting students to mandatory thought reform.  They terminated the program because it was publicly exposed, and, outside the university’s ideological bubble, it was simply indefensible.  The program was exposed because dissenting members of the U.D. community exercised their rights to report it to FIRE.  I expect that any suspected whistleblowers will be vilified as malcontents, or conservative ideologues, and I wouldn’t be surprised if university officials started an investigation to find out who “leaked” the damning documents describing the resident life program.  Restoring and preserving civil liberty at U.D. requires continuing vigilance.
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Schools: University of Delaware Cases: University of Delaware: Students Required to Undergo Ideological Reeducation