This is from Dan Lenker, a former SA at the University of Delaware and should clear up any doubt about whether or not they were engaging in what amounts to coerced political indoctrination:
I was also a Resident Assistant for the University of Delaware before I transferred out of state in 2006. FIRE IS JUSTIFIED in its accusations. In regards to previous comments stating that students should just go elsewhere, that is very unfair to in-state students since Delaware has a very limited university selection, and out of state tuition is high.
Here’s what I have to say on this topic:
The Delaware RA hiring process is very slanted towards people who profess the same beliefs as the residence life (Reslife) administration. If your opinions on topics such as diversity, homosexual rights (and more subtly, politics) differ from the university, you are not likely to be hired. Once employed, RAs are put through intensive, mind numbing training for a few weeks during the summer and at least once later in the year.
I personally encountered the “Every person of European descent is privileged and benefits from racism” type remarks, among many others which weren’t so bad yet still controversial and presented as unarguable dogma in which Reslife’s opinion was the only correct opinion. Every week, RAs are put under great pressure by their Hall Directors to “promote diversity” on a constant basis through mandated social interactions, bulletin boards on approved or mandated topics, and mandated programs which residents are told they have to attend. UD’s RAs often aren’t as laid back as ones you may be familiar with due to these reasons.
The forced programs while I was an RA were ridiculous and poorly designed, but they did show a trend of becoming more belligerent towards re-educating students into accepting university beliefs.
Often there was a greater emphasis on the re-education programs than actually helping the residents have a successful and enjoyable college career. Usually, only freshmen residents are gullible enough to easily get to attend these programs, but particularly zealous RAs will use various forms of coercion such as disciplinary favoritism. Usually the less-than-zealous RAs are weeded out over the course of the year.
While the messages that UD’s Reslife program espouses are generally positive in my opinion, the staff often goes too far in promoting them, allowing them to be fairly called a form of indoctrination. This zealousness can have serious negative effects for students. An example would be the Jewish student who put up a joke Hitler profile on Facebook and was promptly suspended. The student was re-admitted over the next semester when he got a lawyer who pointed out that such an action was a violation of free speech. The university claimed the people offended and who brought the issue to Judicial Affairs were just students, but they were RAs – I know them! Poor taste in humor on a non-university run website should not have been the university’s business, and this is just one example of how Reslife’s dogma can compel overreaction and cause harm – I know of many others, but this post has already gotten pretty long.
I also just wanted to ask that Reslife Director Kathleen Kerr be treated with respect in any justifiably outraged correspondence, as she is a really nice lady. Some of the others on the UD Reslife staff are more responsible for things going to far…
(BTW, you can Google my name to find a UDaily article which proves I was an RA at Delaware)
Salutes to Dan for speaking up on an issue that needs a bright light on it. See my original article on this here.
If anyone else out there has first hand experiences in this issue please feel free to contact me at [email protected]