This Month in FIRE History: University of Delaware Requires Students to Undergo Ideological Re-Education

November 30, 2009

Two years ago this month, FIRE celebrated one of the greatest victories in our 10-year history, dismantling the massive ideological reeducation program at the University of Delaware.

FIRE was first contacted in the fall of 2007 by a parent of a student at UD who was concerned about the program. Referred to as a “treatment” for students’ supposedly incorrect attitudes and beliefs about politics, race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism, the mandatory program was run by residential assistants (RAs) for the university’s Residential Life department.

The program required that students participate in training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their RAs in which they were asked intrusive questions such as, “When did you discover your sexual identity?” One student who responded “None of your damn business” was written up by her RA in an incident report.

FIRE informed Delaware that the program was unconstitutional and an assault on individuals’ freedom of conscience. After national outrage and extensive media coverage followed, the program was officially suspended. As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said in FIRE’s video Think What We Think…Or Else: Thought Control on the American Campus:

“You may agree with the goals of the university’s program, but it’s no one’s right to coerce students to adopt views against their conscience … In a free society, if you want to change people’s opinions, you need to rely on the power of your words and the persuasiveness of your arguments. In this case, the university relied instead on coercion, force and threats.”

In the past two years there have since been continued attempts to reinstate some of the coercive elements of the ResLife program, all of which FIRE has fought.

FIRE has continued to draw attention to Delaware’s program. Along with a video, which received nearly 70,000 hits on YouTube, Adam Kissel, the Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Project wrote an award-winning article for The Lantern describing the program’s dangerous methods in depth that you can check out here.

Schools:  University of Delaware

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