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)