Delaware: Residence Life Fighting Back?

November 3, 2007

FIRE expresses our deep appreciation to the University of Delaware (UD) faculty who provided vital support to our efforts to expose the unconscionable and unconstitutional residence life program at Delaware. We encourage faculty who know of similar programs at their own schools to let us know what is going on. We cannot stress enough the importance of exposing to the light of day such abuses of freedom of conscience at our nation’s universities.

Unfortunately, it seems that Residence Life is not taking kindly to having their program immediately and completely shut down. Faculty and RAs who stand up against the program have been feeling the heat. For instance, a parent wrote us about a recent conversation with her son:

He told me that RA’s were “mandated” to speak out against FIRE to the media. One refused and was told by Residence Life staff that he would lose his job and the University would not consider him a student anymore. I asked him if he [the RA] would be expelled and he said that was 100% correct. I certainly hope that is not the case anymore since President Harker suspended the program.

We of, course, want to look into this more to verify if this account is true, but it corroborates the following account posted at the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog:

I have been an RA for the past two years and have not been comfortable with this program. It has gotten out of hand and demanding of students. Yesterday [Oct. 31] I was approached to be an advocate of the program. Several of my RA friends have been asked to be available for talking with the press. When I declined I was taken aside and told that my future as an RA was in jeopardy as was future a student. I decided to stand-up for myself.

We encourage RAs who have experienced this kind of thing to contact us and let us know if you have had similar experiences.
Meanwhile, another student has written in with this account, excerpted, of an experience with an RA shortly after a Residence Life meeting on Thursday:

I was told that FIRE was simply a conservative group spreading lies because they misread the data. For example, the “worst one-on-one” was meant to be that the RA giving it handled it poorly. Also, the idea of a “treatment” was never said or implied by Res Life. I reminded him that there is evidence and was simply told [by the RA] that FIRE misinterpreted it and portrayed it incorrectly. I begged for him to accept the fact that no matter what the intention was, it was used by Res Life and that the documentation exists. I could not get his agreement to this statement. I was also confused by another statement by the RA that this was all started by some professors, “one of which who teaches the bell curve of intelligence,” which apparently devalues your claim to make this argument. If he had a point there, it was unclear. He also said that they know that there was a leak in Res Life because FIRE had access to documents that they would not otherwise have had. This statement really bothers me. When we talk of a leak, we are referring to a government secret or classified military plans, not plans for residence life training.

We remind readers that such allegations (indirectly reported though they are) are unfounded. As we stated in our press release:

Under the program, students were required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and “one-on-one” meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The university also instructed RAs to ask intrusive personal questions during one-on-one sessions, including “When did you discover your sexual identity?” A student who responded, “That is none of your damn business,” was, according to the university’s own materials, written up—along with the student’s name and room number—as having one of the “wors[t] one-on-one” sessions.

And whether or not students were told about their “treatment,” Residence Life officials freely acknowledged it, for example, here.
We also want RAs at Delaware to know that insofar as you are students, you retain freedom of speech. You are free to say just about whatever you want to your fellow students (even many things that are unconstitutionally banned under Residence Life’s speech restrictions, such as “Any instance that is perceived by those involved as being racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or otherwise oppressive”)—but giving opinions as students is a far, far cry from Delaware’s officially mandated ideological “treatment” program

Schools:  University of Delaware

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