At the University of Delaware (UD), as we announced in our press release today, reeducation in the residence halls is mandatory. As a freshman, unless you live at home, you must live in one of these dormitories-cum-reeducation camps. (1) Public and internal documents alike stress time and again that “every student” must be reached. As an RA says about one-on-one sessions, “Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!!” (2) The philosophy of the program is defined explicitly as being distinct from that of the “voluntary” program model. (3) RAs “deliver” the “curriculum” at mandatory meetings. (4) For other meetings and one-on-one sessions, RAs email residents, sometimes multiple times, to insist that these training sessions are mandatory. Students are pressured to make up sessions that they miss. (5) The entire residence hall environment is manipulated so that students cannot avoid persistent exposure to the university’s approved messages. (See below for the reason I numbered these aspects of the program.)
Two central premises of the reeducation program, first, that students are in need of “treatment” (UD’s own words) for their incorrect values, beliefs, and attitudes, and second, the educational premise that learning consists of such changes in values, attitudes, and behaviors, are inconsistent with freedom of conscience as well as truly voluntary participation in the program. There is no way to run this program that would make it truly voluntary, and here’s why:
(1) The entire curriculum is rife with the language of “students will,” “students must,” “each student will,” and so on. In fact, the major “competencies” are characteristics that are supposed to be developed by “each student.” At the Christiana Towers, for instance, students apparently will become environmentalists and social change agents by their senior year:
Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will participate in monthly community meetings that are designed to provide knowledge about contemporary global issues and prompt action. For example, students will evaluate their consumption patterns in an attempt to reduce it apartment by apartment. Furthermore, students will be asked in the floor meeting setting to choose a project for change.
At Dickinson in the spring, “Each student would be asked to make a commitment to reduce their [ecological] footprint by at least 20% before the next one on one meeting.” At the Christiana Towers complex, among the Junior Learning Outcomes are that “Each student will act on the internal belief that societal problems are everyone’s responsibility.” (Sources: Sendy E. Guerrier, “Dickinson Complex Curriculum”; Dena Kniess, “Christiana Towers Complex Curriculum.”)
(2) “Every student” approach. UD prides itself on the mandatory nature of the curriculum. UD advertises its apparently proprietary, “unique” approach as distinct from the “program model,” which relies only on “voluntary attendance.” According to the Office of Residence Life Research Agenda, for instance, one aspect of assessment is that
A researcher must document that the treatment/intervention was faithfully applied (ex: specific lesson plans were delivered to every student, etc.) (Italics in original.)
It’s bad enough that this is a “treatment/intervention” that must be delivered. But it’s also a mandatory treatment that “requires a systemic change.” See slide 18 of this PowerPoint presentation:
What Makes this a Distinctive Approach?
Truly based on a learning paradigm
Places educational responsibility in the hands of our experts
• Requires a systemic change—selection, training, symbolic messages…
• “Each Student…”
• Opportunities (Emphases added.) (Source: “UD: One Example,” 2007 Residential Curriculum Institute)
(3) Meetings are mandatory. At the Dickinson complex, for instance,
All students are expected to be at community meetings. This ensures that lesson plans are delivered to each and every student. (Source: “Dickinson Complex Curriculum.”)
(4) One-on-one sessions with RAs are mandatory (RAs are vying for awards based in part on how much attendance they can muster). One RA named Mahsa wrote to her students:
Every semester we are required to hold a 1-on-1 session. This gives us, the RA’s, a chance to know how everyone’s doing and where everyone stands on certain issues or topics. Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!!
Another, named Lindsay, wrote:
I just wanted to remind you all that floor meetings ARE mandatory. While I am a very understanding person, there is NO WAY that HALF of you weren’t able to make it last night. Also, NONE of you e-mailed me about prior commitments. While I hate to do this, I’m going to have to set some ground rules:
—COME to the floor meetings and PARTICIPATE! There is ALWAYS something new to learn, and the more everyone shares their own experiences, the more opportunities there are for everyone else to learn.
—If you can’t come, E-MAIL me. I will let you know when the other RA’s are holding their floor meetings so that you can catch up then. If none of those options works, then we’ll set up a time during office hours to go over the material.
—The content is IMPORTANT! Here at the University of Delaware, living in the residence halls is a Living-Learning Experience, meaning that you’ll learn just as much, if not MORE, in the residence halls. Like it or not, you all are the future Leaders, and the world is Diverse, so learning to Embrace and Appreciate that diversity is ESSENTIAL.
SO, the make-up times for this past meeting are tonight at 8:00 and Wednesday at 9:00 (1st and 4th floors). If you can’t make either, I’m on duty Friday night so I can facilitate it at 7:30 on Friday if necessary.
Hopefully all of you can recognize that the one hour commitment once every couple of weeks is not a lot to ask, so please be respectful to myself, yourself, and the floor by making the effort in regards to floor meetings. Thank you!
PS. Sorry for the serious e-mail here, but it was totally necessary. Have a GREAT week and good-luck on finals!
Another, named Marianna, wrote:
If for any reason you feel that you can’t come to your next floor meeting, don’t worry and, please, notify your RA in advance.
1) You can attend floor meeting with another floor—which can be earlier or later than your own floor’s meeting (ask your RA or HD when they take place).
2) If you can’t make it for any of the meetings, please, contact your RA to schedule a time and cover with her topics mentioned during the meeting (probably, during her office hours or any other time convenient for you).
3) If your RA don’t have time at the moment, feel free to email me, and we’ll discuss your concerns!
Thanks, and have a good time on your floor!
(5) Comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment. At the Rodney complex, for instance,
It is vitally important that the environment is one which does not allow students to passively miss what is occurring. Students should be confronted with this information at every turn and understand the interconnectedness of everything that is presented to them. This is one of the benefits inherent in working in the residence hall environment, the numerous points of contact. The environment is rich with opportunities to let students know what we consider important and leave a mental footprint on their consciousness. (Emphasis added.) (Source: Sendy E. Guerrier and Licinia B. Kaliher, “Rodney Complex Curriculum.”)
I feel terrible for the students at Rodney whose brains are metaphorically being stepped on, maybe metaphorically kicked, until they get the message. This is not a voluntary program. It is a massive thought-reform project, and it must be completely dismantled.