The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, said the university’s residence life education program amounts to an “Orwellian” attempt at thought control that violates students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech
Orwellian attempt at thought control? Hello? You know the planet is fucked up when conservatives are attempting to incorporate Orwell into an arguement.
Editors note: link now fixed.
I’m FIRE’s Legal Director, and I’m responding to your e-mail about the University of Delaware ’s residence life program. Thanks for your input. The “highly specific university-approved views” to which we refer are those that the university specifies that “all students will recognize” after going through the residence life education program. They include:
- “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society” and “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression.” (Available here: http://www.udel.edu/reslife/about/narratives/narrative2.htm)
- “Social problems are everyone’s responsibility.” (Available here: http://www.udel.edu/reslife/about/narratives/narrative3.htm)
- “Each student will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.” (Available here: http://www.udel.edu/reslife/about/narratives/narrative10.htm)
Now, these may be views that you agree with and find non-controversial. But there are people, for example, who do not believe that systemic oppression exists in American society, and it is not the place of a taxpayer-supported institution of higher education to try—through mandatory programming—to change their beliefs. That doesn’t mean that the university can’t expose its students to the values it finds important—it absolutely can. But what it can’t do is try, through high-pressure tactics and mandatory sessions, to make students agree. So, to take your example, the school can certainly encourage responsibility to the planet, but it cannot require students to participate in environmentalist activities and to voice their agreement with environmentalism—which Is what the university has done with this program. For example, in the Russell complex, the curriculum states that at a floor meeting in March, “students will take action by advocating for a sustainable world.” Requiring students to advocate for a cause with which they may not agree goes beyond mere exposure to the university’s viewpoint and crosses the line into compelling students to take a view that is not their own—which is something the First Amendment does not allow.
I hope this has helped provide you with some greater insight into FIRE’s opposition to the program. Please feel free to e-mail me back if you’d like to continue this dialogue.
My letter to the President of FIRE:
I have a question in your press release you stated:
The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism.
the sentence immediately after this one you stated:
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.
Can you tell me what these audacious “highly specific university-approved views” are? This isn’t a religious right school that preaches no sex before marriage. It allows inter racial dating on it’s campus. In fact to the best of my knowledge is secular and allows a myriad of beliefs to attend their school.
Assuming the school which I’m confident I’m right is preaching acceptance, tolerance and responsibility towards the planet, how exactly is this Orwellian?
I’m just curious.
Wilmington, De 19803