University of Delaware ResLife Controversy Continues

March 21, 2008

In today’s Delaware News Journal—the leading Delaware newspaper—Beth Miller reports on the ongoing controversy over the University of Delaware’s residential program for undergraduates, which was largely cancelled last year for its attempts to indoctrinate students with a highly politicized ideology. As Miller reports,

some students said they were uncomfortable in some discussions and were forced to reveal opinions they preferred to keep private or had no opportunity to explain. Questions about their sexual identities or their views on issues such as affirmative action and gay marriage made some squirm. Others said they were made to feel like racists because they were white. Some said they believed a political agenda was behind the sessions.

All of that is true, but the problems ran much deeper than that, as FIRE has outlined using hundreds of pages of documentation.

In the article, Miller reports yet another faculty rejection of ResLife’s program sometime last week. (ResLife refers to the Residence Life staff at the university.) This comes in the wake of a withering report on the failings of last year’s program and an earlier rejection of a ResLife proposal to establish a new politicized program.

Miller reports that the university’s Student Life Committee is now reviewing still another proposal. Whether this one was written by ResLife or by the faculty themselves is unclear, but it seems to me that ResLife has run out of chances.

Miller also quotes professor Jan Blits regarding his opposition to ResLife’s unmitigated agenda:

“They’re still talking about what could be called ‘soulcraft’—shaping the soul,” he said. “From what I know of the proposals, they are attempts to shape the beliefs, characters and actions of the students, not simply give them a traditional residence life program… Instead, they want to educate. The language has been somewhat softened, but from what I understand the substance is the same.”

Blits continues to object to the “speech code” he says is used at UD, too, and says students still can be punished for speech considered offensive. That, he said, violates free-speech protections.

“Threats are illegal,” Blits said. “But students can also get into serious trouble for saying things that could give offense. You can’t punish a student as a behavior problem if the speech is legal.”

Blits is referring, I think, to the wildly unconstitutional policy that requires immediate corrective action (on the same level as sexual assault and hospitalization for alcohol overdose) in the case of “Any instance that is perceived by those involved as being racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or otherwise oppressive.”

ResLife has a long way to go, and I hope the faculty at the University of Delaware is up to the challenge.

Schools:  University of Delaware

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