ResLife Indoctrinators Attack FIRE at Closed Conference

March 4, 2008

Leaders of the notorious indoctrination programs in college residence halls, bent on their highly politicized “sustainability” ideology, have hit a new low. As the National Association of Scholars (NAS) has reported, officials at a closed conference sponsored by University of Delaware’s Residence Life directors have resorted to name-calling and lies in order to attack FIRE and other critics of the University of Delaware program. One person at the conference charged critics of the program with “hate, fear, ignorance, and stupidity,” and another characterized FIRE as a “bad organization with ties to white supremacy groups.”

As for my use of the term “indoctrinators,” I use it on the basis of extensive evidencenot just from the University of Delaware but also from the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), a cosponsor of the conference. The entire NAS report is an engaging must-read for some inside information about what ResLife officials think they’re doing. For more inside information about the ACPA sustainability agenda, see the PowerPoints and other materials co-authored by the University of Delaware’s Kathleen Kerr and other ACPA indoctrinators.

Here are some great excerpts from the NAS report:

The conference opened with a presentation by a senior residence life official from a large private university in the northeast. She lit one large candle “to represent the knowledge and responsibility that we have as student affairs and residence life professionals.” The large candle was next to a plate of many smaller candles, which she explained were the students, to whom “we pass on that light.” … Suddenly, she blew out the large candle. She dramatically looked at the audience and said that in fall 2007, “Our light went out,” and it was “hate, fear, ignorance, and stupidity” that caused it to go out. She did not name the source of these candle-snuffing iniquities, perhaps because the name FIRE would have damaged her metaphor. She then … declared, “With this conference, we relight the candle … and hate, fear, ignorance, and stupidity will not snuff it out [again].” She relit the candle, and continued in this vein, concluding, “Journey with me towards our revolution of the future.”

[ACPA’s] document, The Student Learning Imperative: Implications for Student Affairs … calls on residence life officials to redefine themselves as educators. Their task was no longer to foster a wholesome environment in which students could live together, but instead to “enhance student learning and personal development.” … In practice, this is a revolution that attempts to turn all of the minutiae of daily life in dorms and dining halls, on campus quads and student unions, into learning opportunities that have been (or should be) thought through by the res life experts in search of specific “learning objectives and outcomes.” Students should never just hang out. They should seize the moment to discuss their co-optation by the structures of racial oppression in American society, their need to fan the flames of awareness of their carbon footprints, their too facile readiness to accept heteronormativity, and other matters of moment. In res-life speak, this assiduous attention to learning opportunities is called the “Curricular Model” of residence life, and it is meant to replace the tired old “Programming Model,” wherein students were offered empty time-fillers such as debating clubs, blood drives, and movies.

Yes, faculty should be aware that ResLife officials are trying to interfere with the faculty’s educational prerogatives. Not only that, but ResLife officials also believe that the faculty tend to be narrow-minded, as in these excerpts:

Another key rationalization of the revolution in student affairs is the assertion that the college academic curriculum is, by its nature, intellectually narrow … [T]hey will tear down the wall artificially separating “academic affairs” and “student affairs.” This might sound presumptuous to faculty members, charged with developing the curriculum and maintaining the integrity of academic programs, but res lifers should not be intimidated. Res life is the kingdom of “issues of intimacy” and topics such as race, gender, and sexual identity-issues that apparently never arise in the ordinary classroom.

They take learning not to be the acquisition of knowledge, intellectual skill, and judgment, but rather a form of personal “transformation” that begins with seeing the “big picture.” Which big picture? Theirs, of course.

A tag line began to emerge over the course of the conference: that res life officials are “equal partners” in higher education…. And it was often couched defensively. Said one speaker, “We are educators, and we do not need permission [from faculty] to educate, and we certainly do not need to apologize for it.”

And some of the most troubling aspects of Delaware’s program were hot topics:

[T]he conferees discussed some of the techniques that their colleges and universities had tried. One was having RAs and RDs [resident assistants and directors] call dorm meetings to discuss identity questions. When such meetings are referred to as “mandatory,” students object; and to call a mandatory meeting, ask very personal questions, and then tell students who have already been publicly asked such questions that they don’t really need to answer them breeds ill will. Perhaps this could be summarized as the dawning recognition that humiliating students is not a good approach.

One discussion focused on whether the RA’s notes of discussions with a student become part of the student’s record. It was agreed that they can become part of the student’s record, but that res life officials would never misuse such information or release it.

Another technique that drew fire at Delaware was having the RAs pursue one-on-one interviews with freshmen. Several participants mentioned that such one-on-one meetings “about diversity” did not work well. No one, however, proposed that they be stopped.

There is much more, but let me conclude with these excerpts:

It is an ironic outcome for many res-life officials who pride themselves on their political progressivism, but who in their workaday lives have become ardent apostles of social control. They condone without a second thought many kinds of social license that would have been anathema to an earlier generation of college officials, but at the same time they deny freedom of conscience and freedom of speech to many in their charge.

Because college and university officials higher up the chain of responsibility, including provosts and presidents, have allowed this to happen, it falls now to the faculty to put residence life back on track. In other words, it is time to take a deep breath and blow out that candle for good. What the res lifers take as an “Imperative” is really just a dereliction of their primary duties.

Faculty members whose sympathies lie elsewhere on the political spectrum can rightly wonder why the residence life offices of their universities have been allowed to become partisans of culture war extremists.

Many thanks to the NAS for its contribution in unveiling the highly politicized, evangelistic ideology of so many residence life staff nationwide.

Schools:  University of Delaware

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