University of Delaware Faculty Condemns Old ResLife Program

March 19, 2008

The University of Delaware’s Student Life Committee, which recently rejected a proposal for a highly politicized residential program in the dorms next year, has also roundly condemned the old program in a February 22 report.

For those who have not yet heard of the discontinued and discredited program, please follow the links above. Here is how the UD faculty committee summarized it:

During the Fall 2007 semester, an external organization [that’s FIRE] gained access to the curricula as well as other information on the program and information that had been posted on the Residence Life website and led a public campaign that brought internal and external attention to the curriculum as well as their opposition to its implementation. Ultimately the decision was made by the University to discontinue the program.

Here are excerpts from the many points on which the faculty committee criticized the old program:

  • Residence Life should have relied on the faculty in the development of a Curricular Approach to Residence Life.
  • [S]ome of the topics that were addressed in the curriculum were worthy of discussion, but it would have been appropriate for the discussions on those topics to be led by qualified professionals and faculty.
  • [T]here was not a clear understanding on whether the participation in the Residence Life Curriculum was voluntary or mandatory. Considering the nature of the topics, it would be imperative that students clearly understand that it is voluntary rather than having the impression it was mandatory.
  • [T]here was an inappropriate reliance on resident assistants in the implementation of the curriculum. It was not in the best interest of either the residence assistants or the residents that certain activities were not led by qualified professionals.
  • [A]lthough the intent of the curriculum was to engage students in discussion and debate about important topics related to citizenship, on several occasions stated learning outcomes and activities suggested a particular view was a correct view over another rather than encouraging students to have an open and honest discussion.
  • [I]t was inappropriate for the educational materials of guest speaker Dr. Shakti Butler to be posted on the University website…. Some of the posted material was not used by Dr. Butler in her workshop nor was it ever used in the residence halls with students. This makes the posting on the University website even more inappropriate.

My goodness. This is just what we’ve been saying all along. We had and still have some additional concerns, but this is a pretty major admission of significant fault. How the responsible parties could still hold their jobs after this is beyond me.

The faculty committee concludes with some recommendations, some of which I excerpt below:

  • Use of “curriculum” and “educational” on a university campus implies academic content that is typically conveyed in classroom or laboratory settings. This content has withstood rigorous review by faculty members and academic departments. The committee feels the term “educational” still conveys a classroom image and not an extracurricular activity that should be enjoyable as well as mind-expanding. To avoid any confusion, when talking about education that is planned to occur in residence halls, it is recommended that the term curriculum be replaced with “residence life program”.
  • It is imperative that students clearly understand that participation in Residence Life programming is voluntary rather than having an impression that it is mandatory. Respecting the moral autonomy and intellectual integrity of students should be a primary goal of all Residential Life programs. Such respect requires that no educational program of Residential Life be mandatory.
  • [T]the specific learning outcomes, goals and implementation related to these opportunities must be revised.

The first and third points look like the main reasons that the faculty committee continues to have no patience with the Residence Life proposal to run an educational program with any agenda, much less its own highly politicized one.

Well done, UD faculty!

Schools:  University of Delaware

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