Univ. Housing employs ‘curious policies’

November 19, 2008

Collective punishment should have gone out of fashion when we had to stay in for recess in fifth grade after one person decided to throw an apple across the lunchroom. Unfortunately, it seems University Housing believes treating students like elementary schoolers is a perfectly reasonable option, as demonstrated by its intention to fine an entire floor in Creswell because of vandalism in one bathroom.

Collective punishment is just one of several curious policies endorsed by Housing. Since all first-year students are required to pay their hard-earned cash to Housing and sign a contract, it is important to illuminate exactly what students are getting into when they come under the auspices of our University’s Housing department.

I was introduced to Housing’s unique philosophy when I moved into my dorm freshman year and noticed a small group of doors had special name tags. At first I didn’t know who these students were, but I soon realized the doors of all black students had been marked by special “advocates” that Housing pays to “Continue the Legacy of African Student Success.”

Singling out certain students by putting signs on their doors seems like an odd approach for Housing to use, but pales in comparison to Housing’s definition of so-called “acts of intolerance.”

Housing’s policies are epitomized by a far-reaching claim to punish any student who violates policy by committing what is grandiloquently called an “act of intolerance.” According to Housing, these acts are “behaviors that, by intent and/or outcome, harm or threaten to harm a person or group.”

The biggest problem with that definition is the emphasis on “outcome” – practically anything could count as an act of intolerance if someone chose to interpret an action or statement that way.

Say a joke that someone happens to find offensive? Act of intolerance.

Hold the door for someone who finds it sexist? Act of intolerance. Laugh at someone’s Guitar Hero-playing ability? Act of intolerance.

In fact, this column is likely an act of intolerance if someone perceives it as such. I apologize in advance to any other Red & Black columnists who get collectively punished by Housing for what I write in this column.

As unusual as our University’s Department of Housing may seem, we still have nothing on the University of Delaware’s.

In an incident brought to light by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, UD’s Resident Assistants were encouraged to ask students probing personal questions such as “When did you first discover your sexual identity?” during one-on-one interviews.

These RAs were trained according to manuals with definitions such as: “A RACIST: 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.” The goal of the UD program was eerily similar to that of ideological re-education, stating that through “curriculum experience (a treatment) specific attitudinal or behavioral changes (learning) will occur.”

Fortunately, our University Housing has not gone that far, but the UD case illustrates how powerful Housing departments can become. Students deserve to be treated like adults and not subjected to arbitrary regulations and actions.


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