University of Delaware ResLife Misappropriates UD Environmental Sustainability Initiative for Social Activism

By May 2, 2008

On May 5, the University of Delaware Faculty Senate is scheduled to vote on a fundamentally flawed, possibly illegal indoctrination program in the UD residence halls for next year.

As I wrote earlier this week, the plan should be rejected. This is because the program hinges almost entirely on a highly politicized “sustainability” education agenda, one in which ResLife has already determined the moral and political conclusions students are supposed to reach. The plan’s “learning outcomes” are elaborated throughout the program in such a way that students will be pressured to adopt ResLife’s very specific views about students’ “responsibilities” as global citizens. The traditional materials of residential life programs are little more than an afterthought, thrown in at the end of the description of each month of the plan and shoehorned together into an appendix.

The bottom line is that the proposed program usurps the power of the faculty, puts education about serious and complex issues in the hands of people who have little or no formal training in education (student RAs, for instance), duplicates what the faculty already teach at best, and bombards and indoctrinates students with the agenda at worst.

But what does ResLife really mean by “sustainability”? John Leo nailed it, and I have written about it here. I will say it again: for ResLife, sustainability is not just about the environment. Documents written or promoted by Residence Life officials demonstrate that sustainability is a highly politicized, comprehensive agenda outlining “acceptable” positions on controversial topics such as affirmative action, gay marriage, abortion, corporations and worldwide redistribution of wealth.

That is a far cry from the University of Delaware’s environmental take on sustainability here:

UD backs its commitment to sustainability with action in such areas as: administrative services, energy conservation and efficiency, dining services, transportation, procurement, recycling, water resources and information technology.

That’s fine and good, a matter of administrative decision-making with little to no impact on pedagogical outcomes. No big deal. But when “sustainability” becomes a philosophical Trojan horse for a host of other pre-approved political viewpoints, things get problematic. The UD faculty should not let the university’s environmentalist sustainability agenda be hijacked by ResLife’s social and political agenda.

If you don’t believe me, see for yourself. Today FIRE has put online a couple of pages from one of the rejected ResLife proposals. The pages are a short summary of ResLife’s view of sustainability and diversity. For ResLife, the entire program must be viewed through “the sustainability lens.” For ResLife, “citizenship” must be viewed as part “sustainability,” part “diversity.”

If an institution is sustainable, there is an emphasis on critical activities that are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable. Sustainable concepts are implemented in curriculum, co-curriculum, and research so as to prepare students to contribute to society as working citizens. Activities embody responsible consumption of food, natural resources and energy and treat its diverse members with respect … [ResLife document, drawing on the 1987 Brundtland Commission and University Leaders for a Sustainable Future]

[...]

The idea of justice is also a critical term … in terms of how inequity and injustice diminishes not only those suffering directly, but the entire global collective.

[...]

To quote AAC&U, “educating students for a global future is no longer elective.”

ResLife has worked very hard to hoodwink the faculty, using the university’s own educational goals and initiatives as a cover for its own agenda.

The UD faculty will fall for it unless they read this document with the same critical eye they use when they do their regular academic work.

Schools: University of Delaware Cases: University of Delaware: Students Required to Undergo Ideological Reeducation