Friday Ephemera

Like Weeds

A couple of weeks ago, while noting another example of academic attitude correction, I wrote:

I’m inclined to wonder exactly how egregious and pervasive this phenomenon has to be before concern becomes legitimate. After all, if you want to propagate tendentious ideology and make it seem normative, respectable and self-evidently true, insinuating that ideology into schools and universities would be a pretty good way to do it. “Debate” can then be had on what is most likely an unequal footing, thus arriving at the approved conclusions with a minimum of informed and realistic opposition. If faculty and students are obliged to regurgitate that ideology and perhaps internalise it, while mouthing fuzzwords like “social justice,” all the better. Is it enough to bemoan certain socio-political trends or bias in areas of the media if one doesn’t also address the place where many of these things originate? And are we supposed to believe that the ideologues who push for such measures are going to get tired and desist of their own volition, and then politely roll back the idiocy they’ve been so keen to put in place?

Regarding that last question, the good people at FIRE have revisited last year’s Delaware indoctrination saga (discussed here) and provided an answer of sorts

First, lest we forget, here’s a reminder of what was being shoehorned into soft student brains:

The University of Delaware’s Office of Residence Life… used mandatory activities to coerce students to change their thoughts, values, attitudes, beliefs and habits to conform to a highly specified social, environmental, and political agenda… We were first alerted to the situation in October 2007, when a parent wrote us about the coercive activities his son was experiencing in the University of Delaware (UD) dorms. His son described the first set of activities as,

ugly, hateful and extremely divisive. It forced the students to act out the worst possible racial stereotypes and was replete with left-wing ideological commentary and gratuitous slurs… The teachers handed out an array of propaganda materials to support this seminar. However, at the close of the session, they insisted on collecting all the materials so that the students could not take it with them.

We heard similar reports from two UD professors, Jan Blits and Linda Gottfredson… Anything deemed remotely “oppressive” by anyone was to be stamped out, and resident assistants were being taught that “[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.”


Questionnaires asked students which genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities they were willing to befriend - or to date. After an investigation showed that males demonstrated “a higher degree of resistance to educational efforts,” one dorm chose to hire “strong male RAs”; each such RA “combats male residents’ concepts of traditional male identity” in order to “ensure the delivery of the curriculum at the same level as in the female floors.”


Mandatory group sessions singled out and shamed non-minority students because of their “privilege” in American society. Other mandatory group sessions forced students to name and then act out the worst possible racial, sexual and other stereotypes they could think of, which polarized students more than it helped them appreciate diversity. Staff members kept individual files on students and their beliefs - which were to be archived after graduation. Students with “traditional” beliefs had to become “allies” and “change agents” by their senior year. Posters and door decorations provided the politicized ResLife messages everywhere; one could not escape them. One administrator of the program, Sendy Guerrier, wrote that students “should be confronted with this information at every turn” and that the program should leave “a mental footprint on [students’] consciousness.” The program was called a “treatment” for students’ alleged moral illnesses of consumerism, inherent racism, and oppressive tendencies. UD was proud of this “treatment,” holding an annual Residential Curriculum Institute so that residence life officials nationwide could do the same.

Naturally, the “treatment” involved a lexicon of enormously loaded codewords:

The guiding principle behind UD’s ResLife program was “sustainability.” The term did not just denote a commitment to environmentalism - indeed, ResLife Director Kathleen Kerr called it a “myth” that sustainability is about environmentalism. Rather, Kerr and other ResLife officials saw “sustainability” as a blend of highly specific social, political, and economic principles and practices that were required for the future of the planet and the social and economic equality of the world’s citizens.

A full account of Delaware’s thought correction “treatment” can be found here

One might have assumed that the national media outcry and subsequent, hasty, termination of the ResLife programme would have encouraged a little probity and reflection, even shame. And perhaps one or two firings. However, FIRE reports that the staggering presumption of Delaware’s would-be indoctrinators remains undiminished: 

From [November 2007] forward, however, ResLife worked nonstop to bring the program back. To this day, ResLife has not given up its mission of changing students’ thoughts, values, beliefs, and actions in order to match ResLife's version of “responsibility.” Over the next several months, ResLife presented several proposals for the 2008 –2009 educational program, all of which were rejected... because they were too similar to the discredited 2007 program. True, ResLife’s proposals were watered down significantly, but even what was left was too much, given ResLife’s track record and its continually expressed desire to change and “treat” students so thoroughly.

Finally, when it was almost too late to have any plan at all for the fall of 2008, ResLife accepted a cosmetic amendment to its latest proposal – simply inserting the word “environmental” before each instance of “sustainability” - without actually changing any of the activities in the program. With promises that the program was actually “traditional” (false), “optional” (doubtful), and under new, strict oversight (despite the fact that all the leading ResLife administrators kept their jobs)...  the Faculty Senate and then the Trustees let the proposal pass. [Vice President for Student Life] Michael Gilbert promised that he would be personally responsible for any problems in the new program.

Given Michael Gilbert’s evasive defence of the original, decidedly sinister, attempts to indoctrinate, readers may have their doubts. As I noted last year, Gilbert took care not to mention Dr Shakti Butler’s overtly racist and paranoid training document, despite its key role in Delaware’s “diversity facilitation,” and thanks to which students learned that,

The term [racist] applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. 

This curious omission might make one wonder if Gilbert and his colleagues have sympathy with this view and are all too happy to do in private what they cannot defend in public.

(h/t, The Thin Man)



The fall of the Soviet Union unleashed this on America. Prior to this the living example of real socialism practicing heavy-handed indoctrination allowed public opinion, by way of referencing the S.U., to restrain the indoctrinators who hate freedom, democracy, prosperity: that is, America. No more. With a decades-long history of communists pretending to be Americans, the indoctrinators can now pretend they, too, are American, and when asked point to the SDS, Henry Wallace, Gus Hall, Dalton Trumbo etc. to prove that their totalitarian control has American providence. Having sown tolerance, America has reaped totalitarianism.


carbon based lifeform

"One might have assumed that the national media outcry and subsequent, hasty, termination of the ResLife programme would have encouraged a little probity and reflection, even shame. And perhaps one or two firings. However, FIRE reports that the staggering presumption of Delaware's would-be indoctrinators remains undiminished"

That's exactly it. It is staggering presumption. And it's seriously creepy. Who the hell do they think they are to be doing this?


As I’ve said before, when efforts to indoctrinate students are so brazen and unrepentant, I see no reason to suppose that those efforts will cease or become less egregious without serious and punitive opposition. In the instance above, it seems foolish to trust Michael Gilbert’s judgment, or indeed his motives, and absurd figures like Dr Shakti Butler have wares to peddle and grievances to seed. That’s what she does. The assumption among educators of an entitlement to indoctrinate in this way will only be curbed when students and parents start taking legal action to the fullest possible extent. One or two very expensive settlements and some high-profile firings would, I think, be a start.


"The fall of the Soviet Union unleashed this on America."

No, I think the only thing holding back those campus Maoists and Stalinists was time: It took about 20 years for them to become well-established in positions of power. As for the example of the Soviet Union, I didn't see much evidence of that in academia--quite the opposite, as professor after graduate student spoke derisively of an "inordinate fear" of socialism.


"...all the leading ResLife administrators kept their jobs"

Which is evidence enough that a very large fraction of academia should never be allowed to set foot in a school--except to wash dishes and mop floors. We don't need any more proof that marxists are just as deserving of intolerance as Nazis and Klansmen.


"After an investigation showed that males demonstrated "a higher degree of resistance to educational efforts," one dorm chose to hire "strong male RAs"; each such RA "combats male residents' concepts of traditional male identity" in order to "ensure the delivery of the curriculum at the same level as in the female floors.""

So male students were more likely to be snarky about having to listen to this insane racist bollocks. And instead of giving those guys credit for spotting bullshit, they sent in bigger bullshitters to "combat traditional male identity" and make them behave like the saps who didn't complain?



Yes, it’s “progress,” you see. We can’t have uppity white folk not feeling guilty about things they haven’t done. That simply wouldn’t do. Though some of the ladies did offer “resistance to educational efforts”…

A female freshman arrives for her mandatory one-on-one session in her male RA’s dorm room. It is 8:00 p.m. Classes have been in session for about a week. The resident assistant hands her a questionnaire. He tells her it is “a little questionnaire to help [you] and all the other residents relate to the curriculum.” He adds that they will “go through every question together and discuss them.” He later reports that she “looked a little uncomfortable.”

“When did you discover your sexual identity?” the questionnaire asks.

“That is none of your damn business,” she writes.

“When was a time you felt oppressed?”

“I am oppressed every day [because of my] feelings for the opera. Regularly [people] throw stones at me and jeer me with cruel names.... Unbearable adversity. But I will overcome, hear me, you rock loving majority.”

She is not playing along like the other students, and the RA confronts her using his “confrontation training,” but it isn’t working. He becomes so appalled by her resistance that he writes up an incident report and reports her to his superiors. After all, this is the University of Delaware, and the school has a zero-tolerance policy for anything remotely resembling “hate speech.”

Now were I a student at Delaware, male or female, I’d probably regard the above as a kind of intellectual molestation. And I suspect my response to it would be a little more emphatic. To the extent that it could conceivably involve violence and the use of gasoline. That would, I think, be just and send a suitable message.


I think there is a Maoist link.

The Chinese revolution pioneered the art of community meeting wherein self criticism took place. These meetings at UD mirror them very closely. We have the lecture followed by the group discussion which is hardly open. There is only one available option - admit to white privilege.

Peter Risdon

Googling around this subject, I was delighted to see that one of the most vocal defenders ( of the Delaware ResLife program, John K. Wilson, runs an organisation called the Institute for College Freedom. This appears to consist simply of a website:

Wilson believes that academic freedom is besieged by conservatives. He has even written a book about this: "After 9/11, liberal professors and students faced an onslaught of attacks on their patriotism and academic freedom...A wave of Web sites and think-tanks urge students to spy on their professors for any sign of deviation from the new PC: Patriotic Correctness. Free speech on campus is facing its greatest threat in a half century, and Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies documents the danger to rights and looks to solutions for ensuring and promoting the free exchange of ideas requisite in any thriving democracy.".

It's wonderful to encounter a mind supple enough to describe political indoctrination as "the free exchange of ideas".



Heh. It’s a marvellous inversion of reality; positively Orwellian. I’ve often wondered at what point political leanings become mental health issues.

Peter Risdon


It's an interesting syndrome: the sense that it amounts to persecution if someone devoted to persecuting others is challenged. Perhaps this shared sense is something that, beneath the rationalisations, binds Islamists together with the extreme left.


Well, I think it’s legitimate to ask what kind of personality enjoys probing youngsters about their sexual identity and fishing for grievances, real or imagined, in order to imprint the “correct” socio-political attitude. Likewise, what kind of personality thrives on inculcating guilt of a preposterous and delusional kind? And what kind of personality employs sinister and coercive tactics, backed up with official status and authority - all in the name of “tolerance” and “debate” - then squeals about persecution when confronted with criticism of their methods?

Peter Risdon


"I think it’s legitimate to ask what kind of personality..."

Yes, true. I was being squeamish. Partly because there's a difficult history, largely the province of the predecessors of the sort of people running these programmes in universities today, of associating types of political thinking with mental illness; partly because the questions raised by this line of thought are so enormous and so troubling that it is easier to look away.

Steve in San Diego

"strong male RAs" = sluggos?



Yes, I usually hesitate to reach for psychological explanations, partly for the reasons you suggest. But if the stated argument and motive are unconvincing or absurd, or grotesquely perverse, I think one has to consider other, unspoken factors. It reminds me of exchanges I’ve seen (and had) which go something like this:

Person A insists such-and-such is the case. This is promptly refuted by Person B at length and in great detail. Person A then repeats the same claim, loudly, but with no new evidence and no attempt to address the listed objections. Person B, now puzzled, offers a second, even longer refutation with additional evidence. Person A then abandons the discussion altogether and heads somewhere else where the cycle begins again as if the original exchange had never taken place.

In cases like that, which are not uncommon, I think one has to entertain those troubling variables.

Steve in San Diego

The program is a grotesque outrage, of course.

However, I suspect it is ineffective or actually counter-productive. I would credit most college students with an ability to identify this crapola as such, but going along to get along, etc.

What's really appropriate here is an uprising. Tired of having their time wasted, tired of insulting, condescending lectures from ignorant Nimrods, resentful of attempts at intimidation. Rise.


More academic activism!

"Sure, I understand that stealing a sign will not change anyone's mind, and, most likely, will only embolden McCain supporters' disdain for liberals. Even so, yanking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done."


Thanks for that. It’s interesting that so many so-called “progressives” should favour a Cromwellian approach to persuasion and debate.

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