More Thought Reform Documents from the University of Delaware
November 16, 2007
by Adam Kissel
Readers of The Torch
who are interested in the University of Delaware
thought-reform curriculum should keep checking our case materials for more documents. Students at the University of Delaware might be particularly interested in the full articulation of what Residence Life thought of them and how Residence Life wanted them to change. Each complex’s curriculum is posted here
and makes for quite an engaging read.
Some of the material talks about UD students in positive terms, but some of it does not. For instance, Sendy Guerrier writes for the Dickinson complex
and the Rodney Complex
the culture and environment of this particular University impact students’ view of money and what they see as the purpose of it. There are certain sets of cultural beliefs about economic power that exist on the University of Delaware campus. These beliefs are part of the subconscious and are rarely discussed. . . . These beliefs are typically not open to regular questioning.
When considering our student population it would seem an exploration of issues of socio-economic status and class provide an opportunity to challenge students[‘] preconceived notions and start to develop identity and values system that are conducive to the educational priority of citizenship. (Dickinson, p. 8; Rodney, pp. 6-7)
Surrounded by Stereotypes
Here’s how to do the “Surrounded by Stereotypes” exercise: First, hang 13 pieces of paper around the room. Each one has a “social identity” written on it: Latino/Latina/Hispanic, Obese, Poor, Jewish, Male, Asian, Lesbian/Gay, and so on. Everybody is to write stereotypes (or a zero if they can’t think of any) on each sheet, then the answers are discussed. RAs should follow these guidelines:
Facilitator Note: Students are asked to focus on stereotypes in the media to encourage them to share “real” stereotypes that actually exist without the fear that they will be judged by their peers. ]Emphasis added.] … This activity needs to be done rapidly. Pressure is to be put on the participants as the goal is to have them write down the first thing that comes to their mind. (p. 4)
I fail to see how a subconscious word-association exercise can simultaneously rely on memories of stereotypes found in the media. Anyway, here are some accounts of what happened in a focus group at one hall in the Russell complex (the sample size was six, so I hesitate to rename the hall) in 2006-07:
Did not know why the word “dyke” came up for him when lesbian was said. Says that he does not use crude language to define a person’s sexual identity and was ashamed that he said it
[E]veryone was a person to her, so she found difficulty in putting descriptors to who they were
Said Mexico for Hispanic because he believes it is where most of the Hispanic people in the US come from. (Russell
, pp. 60-61)
[RA follow-up questions:] “How do you define your comfortableness with homosexuality?” “Do you think that religion and sexual identity could ever coexist?” “Do you feel that your beliefs and actions (behaviors) contribute to the social injustice in American society?”
Day In, Day Out Deluge
In the follow-up exercise, the “Day In, Day Out Deluge,” students break up into 8 “families,” each of which exemplifies one or two of the social identities by means of a narrative about the family. Then, “the listing of stereotypes from the previous exercise should be given to the respective families. … Families are then reminded that from this moment on they have inherited all the stereotypes that have been matched with that specific social identity group.” The families then role-play as they discuss various newspaper articles and scenarios involving the stereotypes.
This leads to the third exercise, the “Fishbowl Discussion.” Yes, a student from each family sits in the center of the room, surrounded by the others, and is asked: “Please describe your feelings at this point.” The student is told to stay “in character” as though still a member of the family, yet the RA is told to “pay attention to body language and cues from the rest of the family to ensure that they are all fully engaged and that their reactions are along the same lines as the family member who is speaking … it may be necessary, as appropriate to ask follow up questions to determine whether an individual is connecting other reactions with the experience.”
Finally, students are given the Commitment to Diversity Statement and are encouraged (I would say they are pressured; by this point, some might say they are brainwashed) to sign it.
This series of activities should be among the first to go if Delaware ever revives its diversity training. Among other things, these exercises invade students’ privacy and humiliate them in front of their peers, as students have told us themselves.