Amid growing public scrutiny, the University of Delaware on Thursday November 1st, 2007 halted a controversial residence hall program that critics say tried to force students to accept university-approved ideologies on moral and social issues. Full story published in the Salisbury Times-Online. Additional stories published on WorldNetDaily, and a particularly insightful story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, UD president Patrick Harker (pictured above left) said the program for dormitory residents on the Newark campus, administered by the Office of Residence Life Diversity Education Training Program, would be halted immediately for review. Here's an excerpt:
“While I believe that recent press accounts misrepresent the purpose of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, there are questions about its practices that must be addressed and there are reasons for concern that the actual purpose is not being fulfilled,” Harker stated. “It is not feasible to evaluate these issues without a full and broad-based review.”
Harker said that after conferring with vice president for student life Michael Gilbert and director of residence life Kathleen Kerr, he directed that the program be stopped immediately. “No further activities under the current framework will be conducted,” said Harker.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) alleged earlier this week that the program amounted to an “Orwellian” attempt at thought control that violates students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech. The group described the program as a “systematic assault upon individual liberty, dignity, privacy and autonomy of university students” and called for it to be dismantled.
“We commend president Harker for terminating the program,” said FIRE vice president Robert Shibley. “This is a program that never should have been put in place, and we’re glad to see that the students of the University of Delaware will no longer be subject to this thought reform program.”
According to FIRE, the university saw the program as a “treatment” for incorrect student beliefs on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality and the environment. Among other things, the group cited a training session document that defines “racist” as a term synonymous with white supremacist, and one that applies to “all white people” in the United States “regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.” On the other hand, “people of color cannot be racists,” and there is no such thing in the United States as “reverse racism,” a term “created and used by white people to deny their white privilege.”
The ostensible goal of the residence hall education program was to help students attain “citizenship.” The “competencies” that students were expected to achieve include recognizing that “systemic oppression exists in our society.”
Brooke Aldrich, 18, a freshman from Hockessin, told The Associated Press she left one floor meeting for her dorm “feeling like I was a racist somehow because I was a white person or because I haven’t been oppressed.” [Ed. Note: This is the prime objective of such programs - to emotionally cripple whites with false notions of guilt so that whites cannot resist black, brown, or Jewish exploitation or abuse. Then they end up like Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.]
You have girls giving you hard looks because they're Jewish and you just wrote something offensive, like they're cheap, even though you don't believe it", said Grace Banks, 18, of Smyrna. "It caused a lot of separations. . . . The whole situation was really uncomfortable."
Professors also complained that the program is politically slanted, citing training material that claims all white people living in the United States are racist. "It's straight-out indoctrination," said Linda Gottfredson, an education professor who looked into the program after her Honors Program students grumbled about it.
Another education professor, Jan Blits, president of the Delaware Association of Scholars, labeled the program "political propaganda and brain-washing". "I'd be out of a job in a day if I asked students questions about their sex lives or their experiences as oppressors. . . . It's illegal," he said.
Michael Gilbert, the university's vice president for student life, acknowledged "missteps" in the program. Among the problems Gilbert acknowledges: Resident advisers told students the sessions were mandatory when they were voluntary; the term "treatment" was used, which he said could be "easily misinterpreted" and "construed as inappropriate"; and students were rated "best and worst" by RAs after their one-on-one meetings.
Students "are not required to adopt any particular points of view but are presented with a range of ideas to challenge them and stimulate conversation and debate," Gilbert said in a posting on the university's website. A few "overzealous" RAs told students they had to attend the meetings, he said. After students complained recently, they were informed last week that they did not have to attend.
As for the prying sex question, Gilbert said the exercise was intended to help students "reflect on a number of things" and to become "critical thinkers," and would continue. But if a student declines to answer, "our obligation is to accept that and respect that," he said.
The University of Delaware has virtually no recent history of racial strife. It is 83% White, 5.3% Black, 4.4% Hispanic, and 3.8% Asian. Remaining students are mixed-breeds.
Commentary: Undoubtedly contributing to the sudden volte-face on the part of the administration was the fact that the home address and phone number of University President Patrick Harker was posted on several sites, including the Hal Turner site and the Vanguard News Network Forum. This tactic, originally pioneered by the anti-racist lobby and used against those they perceived to be "racist", works pretty well in reverse, too.
Here's the complete statement by Patrick Harker, posted in the form of an e-mail on the Hal Turner site:
The University of Delaware strives for an environment in which all people feel welcome to learn, and which supports intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, free inquiry and respect for the views and values of an increasingly diverse population. The University is committed to the education of students as citizens, scholars and professionals and their preparation to contribute creatively and with integrity to a global society. The purpose of the residence life educational program is to support these commitments.
While I believe that recent press accounts misrepresent the purpose of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, there are questions about its practices that must be addressed and there are reasons for concern that the actual purpose is not being fulfilled. It is not feasible to evaluate these issues without a full and broad-based review.
Upon the recommendation of Vice President for Student Life Michael Gilbert and Director of Residence Life Kathleen Kerr, I have directed that the program be stopped immediately. No further activities under the current framework will be conducted.
Vice President Gilbert will work with the University Faculty Senate and others to determine the proper means by which residence life programs may support the intellectual, cultural and ethical development of our students.
Patrick T. Harker
University of Delaware
104 Hullihen Hall
Newark, DE 19716-0101
I commend President Harker for his quick, if somewhat equivocal action. Part of the corrective measures MUST include rewriting that offensive training session document. You can't be pushing a training program that characterizes all whites as "racist" and "supremacist".