Just days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) began a media campaign to dissuade the University of Delaware from forcing close to 7,000 students living in the university’s dorms to undergo ideological reform classes, referred to by the university as “treatments,” the Delaware university ended the controversial program.
In applauding university President Patrick Harker’s decision to shut down the program, FIRE’s president Greg Lukianoff stated, “Under the First Amendment, state institutions have no right to impose mandatory ideological training on their students. We are thrilled that this unconscionable and invasive program is gone, but we will be keeping an eye on the University of Delaware to make sure future programs respect the individual right of conscience of its students.”
FIRE was first notified of the program by university students objecting to forced participation in the program. According to the curriculum materials associated with the programs, students were asked personal questions about their sexual identity and/or race. If students objected to the questions or training, resident assistants would write a report of the encounter, labeling the objecting student as one of the “worst,” and the information would be shared with supervisors in the Office of Resident Life.
Materials supporting the program made it clear the main objective was to reshape how students treated social issues deemed important by the university. The stated goal of the residence life program was to achieve “competencies” in certain areas the university considered critical for constructive “citizenship.”
The competencies included: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.”
FIRE’s victory, however, did not come without a fight, as Michael Gilbert, vice president for student life, initially defended the program by writing, “The program is designed to encourage students to think about and to consider a number of issues, but all make their own decisions about the outcome of this reflection.” FIRE steadfastly disagreed with the assertion, noting a stated goal of the program was to “leave a mental footprint on their (the student’s) consciousness.”
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University of Delaware