The recent nationwide media exposure of the diversity facilitation training program of residence assistants at the University of Delaware demonstrates what a couple of professors -- in this case, professors Linda Gottfredson and Jan Blits, two NAS members who teach there -- and a relatively small group of activists can accomplish in revealing the extent to which political correctness and toxic racial ideology have infested some of today's campuses.
Apologists and damage control experts at the University of Delaware would like us to believe the P.R. line that this particular training program was an inexplicable and incomprehensible deviation from the norm. It seems much more likely to us, however, that the outrages at the University of Delaware were predictable.
At Delaware, there was a convergence of trends and views that are widespread, indeed almost normative, on many campuses:
- The view in "race studies" that blacks and other minorities suffer, not just from the actions and attitudes of individual whites, but by systemic or institutional racism, has been widespread for years on college campuses. According to this view, racism is essentially a power relationship, and since only whites have power in this society, only whites can truly be racists.
- The view that American society is inherently racist has left the precincts of faculty departments devoted to black studies, ethnic and gender studies, many departments of history, sociology etc., and spread to administrative offices, where a very large number of administrators are specifically concerned with race relations on campuses. Thus, the views in question are well represented at many multicultural centers, student affairs offices, and affirmative action offices. Frequently, administrators concerned with these issues are found at the highest levels of campus governance, including vice presidents and vice chancellors.
- There is the view that for education to be meaningful it must be transformational for the student. To be a true educator a college teacher must be a change agent.
- For some years now, many educators have been actively promoting the view that teaching on campus should be integrated with the living environment. (See, e.g., Charles Schroeder (1994), Realizing the educational potential of residence halls.) The idea of integrating dorm life and class room life, which might be said to embody an educational philosophy of total immersion, 24/7, is often called "living-learning" by its theorists and practitioners.
All four components of this constellation were present at U Delaware, and each contributed to the fiasco of that university's diversity facilitation training program.
There is evidence to support the view that living-learning is a good idea for some students. However, the living-learning concept clearly has the potential of becoming positively toxic when it is combined with the first three components. That is what happened, evidently, at the University of Delaware.
Once one rejects the line that the recent outrages at Delaware must simply be anomalous and inexplicable, and takes a larger view of the matter, it becomes clear that the same elements that led to the outrages at U Delaware are present at many other campuses as well. This means that what happened at U Delaware, or something very much like it, could happen -- and might have already happened -- at other campuses, and that steps should be taken by faculty, students, and administrators at other campuses to prevent similar incidents from occurring elsewhere. Such steps also need to be taken by the national organizations working in the area of residential life and student affairs -- the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and the American College Personnel Association.
The elements (1)-(4) listed above should be able to serve as a guide or heuristic for systematically identifying campuses that are at special risk of experiencing similar runaway programs. Students, parents and faculty and concerned organizations like the NAS also need to be pro-active in trying to identify such programs and institutions.
As Peter Wood has said in the introduction, this is an important piece of research in which I am now engaged for the NAS. Check this site frequently for postings of my investigations of Shakti Butler, the diversity consultant who helped Delaware develop its program, and curricular and residential programs at other colleges and universities that promote the ideologies that led to the scandal at Delaware.
We would also like to invite others to help us on this project. If you are concerned about a similar program or campus that might be taking a walk on the wild side, kindly let us know.