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Brainwashing 101

November 15, 2007

More on indoctrination at the University Of Delaware .

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent Patrick Harker, the president of the University, a voluminous set of papers on how their residence life program was run. “Hundreds of pages, without exception, are about how to indoctrinate students,” school of education professor Jan Blits told the campus student paper, the Review . “What’s surprising is how open they are about it.” Blits acquired the papers from the residence life program by simply asking for them. Kathleen Kerr, the director of residential life for the university “was so proud of the program she just handed them over,” he said. Blits, head of the university’s chapter of the National Association of Scholars, and another professor at the school of education, Linda Gottfredson, have been cooperating with FIRE to get the story out. Gottfredson said: “Residential Life has the whole person and they try to change beliefs – the heart and soul of a person – which is exactly what totalitarian institutions do. This is a national issue and FIRE is not finished.”

Kerr is currently chair of the American College Personnel Association’s commission for housing and residential life. ACPA’s site lists 28 residential life officers from colleges and universities across the country, including the University of Texas, Oberlin, the University of Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan State, Brandeis and Michigan State, though it is not clear that these institutions are engaged in any indoctrination. The national group’s ethical code says that “respecting the rights of persons to hold different perspectives” is essential.

The papers laying out the residential curriculum at the University of Delaware have a number of gassy euphemisms for insisting that students accept the ideas being imposed. One is “competency attainment” – in plain English the acceptance by students of ideas they are told to accept. The same insistence is available in clear language as well, often in sentences that begin “Students will.” One example: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society.”

At a meeting of the faculty senate, Blits said that programs at public universities structured to impose beliefs are illegal, “even if it were Democratic party principles or Republican party principles.” According to a report in the Review , he told the senate: “Under the civil rights law of 1871, the Ku Klux Klan Act, public university officials are personally liable for punitive damages. That is very, very serious.” Blits said the university is currently “the laughing stock” of the nation.

Among the questions now being debated: why did President Harker merely suspend the program for the rest of the academic year, instead of quashing it entirely? And more basically, why should dormitories have their own curriculum? Possible answer: highly ideological freshman orientation programs are now widespread and meet so little resistance, the temptation to extend the brainwashing to all four years of college may seem irresistible to eager ideologues.

The RAs are forbidden to talk to outsiders about the residential curriculum, though attacking FIRE is apparently allowed. Adam Kissel of FIRE Reported on November 3 that a parent wrote to say that her son “told me that RAs were ‘mandated’ to speak out against FIRE to the media. One refused and was told by residence life staff that he would lose his job and the university would not consider him a student anymore. I asked him if he (the RA) would be expelled and he said that was 100 percent correct.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education blog said several RAs had been asked to speak favorably about the program to the news media. “When I declined I was taken aside and told that my future as an RA was in jeopardy as was my future as a student, ” he said “I decide to stand up for myself.” In addition to its indoctrination, the residence program has its own speech code. The university’s “residence life escalation procedures” divides emergencies into three levels of seriousness. The A) level, the most dire, includes life-threatening situations, sexual assault or rape, drug busts, serious injury and this: “Any instance that is perceived by those involved as being racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic or otherwise oppressive.” All A) emergencies are to be reported immediately, at any hour of the night or day to the residential life professional on duty (parents are not to be notified). If the “instances” of oppressive behavior are comments or beliefs, the provision is clearly unconstitutional. But then, what goes better with an illegal indoctrination program than an equally illegal speech code?

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