Coercive Indoctrination Suspended at University of Delaware

In response to complaints by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the University of Delaware has suspended its coercive indoctrination of students living in its dormitories.

Students living in the university’s eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a “diversity facilitation training” session at which RAs were taught, among other things, 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.”

The university suggests that at one-on-one sessions with students, RAs should ask intrusive personal questions such as “When did you discover your sexual identity?” Students who express discomfort with this type of questioning often meet with disapproval from their RAs, who write reports on these one-on-one sessions and deliver these reports to their superiors. One student identified in a write-up as an RA’s “worst” one-on-one session was a young woman who stated that she was tired of having “diversity shoved down her throat” in response to such questions.

FIRE notes that this sort of indoctrination is at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), which banned compulsory flag-salutes, and observed that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Ignoring the Constitution, defenders of this obnoxious indoctrination, such as critical race theorists and feminist academics, complain that FIRE is part of a right-wing “backlash” and that the indoctrination is needed to “bridge cultural divides,” even though coercive indoctrination is intensely divisive.

Diversity trainers have been engaging in politically correct brainwashing for years, despite its dubious legality, and the fact that it leads to lawsuits against their employer clients. In Hartman v. Pena (1995), a federal court allowed a man to sue the Federal Aviation Administration under Title VII for sexual harassment after he was harassed at a sexual harassment training seminar by the FAA’s diversity trainers, who defended their harassment by saying that it was intended to make men understand what female victims of sexual harassment experience.

Demands that a student answer intrusive questions about his sexual identity are not just a violation of free speech, they’re also a potential invasion of privacy. Way back in 1978, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit revived a constitutional privacy lawsuit by a woman who was asked intrusive questions about her home life in a race-relations seminar for federal employees in the case of Robinson v. Reed.

When the shoe is on the other foot, left-wing academics understand that intrusive questions can violate privacy rights. For example, they have persuaded the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that simply asking about an employee’s sickle-cell anemia violates privacy rights and anti-discrimination laws. Indeed, they sometimes take privacy rights to an unbounded extreme. For example, feminist law professors argue that federal courts should strike down state laws banning late-term partial-birth abortions in their entirety, under a privacy rights rationale, and claim that the California state constitution bars asking adulterous women about their sex lives even when it is clearly relevant to legal issues pending before a court, such as determining the paternity of a child.

But left-wing academics don’t let privacy get in the way of their own intrusive questions to a captive audience of college students, such as “When did you discover your sexual identity?” Their attitude is privacy for me, but not for thee.

Left-wing academics claim that “diversity” is such a “compelling interest” that it justifies restrictions on constitutional rights. But it’s not sufficiently compelling to justify deeply intruding into someone’s private life. For example, in Louisiana Debating and Literary Association v. New Orleans (1995), the federal courts relied on the First Amendment freedom of intimate association to block application of a civil-rights ordinance to the membership decisions of small, highly-selective, private clubs.

Like the University of Delaware, the Seattle School District similarly taught students that all whites were racist and that minorities cannot be racist (it also claimed that planning ahead was a white characteristic that minorities couldn’t be expected to exhibit; claimed that individualism is a form of racism; and attacked the concept of a melting pot). In June of this year, the Supreme Court struck down the Seattle Schools’ use of race in student assignment as unconstitutional. CEI filed an amicus brief in that very case, highlighting the Seattle Schools’ wacky, racist, and politically extreme statements, and explaining why their policies were at odds with the Constitution and federal civil rights laws. (The “diversity expert” who got the Seattle School District to make those wacky claims, which made it look foolish to the Supreme Court, is now employed, at high pay, by the Greenwich, Connecticut schools, proving that left-wing school officials are all too often ineducable).