Meet Kim Jong-il, Director of Residential Life

A few weeks back, a major kerfuffle erupted at the University of Delaware about the indoctrination program for dorm-dwellers mandated by their Residential Life office. A good intro is John Leo's brief but heated description at Minding the Campus:

Residential assistants charged with imposing the "treatments" have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists - at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught 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 indoctrination program pushes students to accept the university's ideas on politics, race, sex, sociology, moral philosophy and environmentalism. The training is run by Kathleen Kerr, director of residential life, who reportedly considers it a "cutting-edge" program that can be exported to other universities around the country. Residential assistants usually provide services to residents and have light duties, such as settling squabbles among students. Kerr and her program are more ambitious. She has been quoted as saying that the job of RAs is to educate the whole human being with a "curricular approach to residential education." In this curricular approach, students are required to report their thoughts and opinions. One professor says: "You have to confess what you believe to the RA." The RAs write reports to their superiors on student progress in cooperating with the "treatment."

Leo made comparisons to "North Korean brainwashing", a parallel originally drawn by UDel students and professors. The program was eventually quashed a few days after being exposed to the withering public glare; this page at FIRE has a raft of links that will tell you everything you want to know about the controversy and more.

It appears this kind of totalitarian mindset is pervasive in Residential Life offices. It might be that the field attracts those committed to instilling leftist ideology into malleable young minds, outside the direct academic program of the University.

Here at UNH, we have Residential Life as well; their "diversity" site is right here. Director of Residential Life Scott Chesney introduces things:

The Department of Residential Life at UNH has a long history of doing its best to model the need to celebrate difference in the UNH community. In the 80s and early 90s, our department positioned itself as the University's loudest voice and conscience in this area. We were often heavily criticized by others in the community for what was perceived to be our arrogant liberalism.
Most people out of the University cocoon will translate that last sentence as a near-certain indication that they were arrogantly liberal at best. And it's hard to read the rest of Scott's missive without adding on the implied message: … and now we're back, and we're more arrogant than ever!

The ResLife site offers a glimpse into the University's official "diversity" ideology. Despite the stated desire to "model the need to celebrate difference", there are no contrary thoughts expressed, no skepticism allowed. The whole thing's as uniform as a Kansas cornfield. Feel free to explore the links, and be either depressed or amused, as your inclination allows. My own reaction is that it seems very similar to religious dogma, of a particularly strident variety.

There is question-begging jargon: you are either an "Ally" ("A member of the "majority" group who rejects the dominant ideology and takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression will benefit the target group and the minority group.") or an "Adversary". That is, you're either on the path to Salvation, or on the road to Eternal Damnation.

There's a Lot of Unnecessary Capitalization.

There are thou shalt/shalt not commandments. The Lord managed to limit Himself to ten; these folks have many, many more. Among the "thou shalt nots":

  • Accept the status quo.

  • Collude with the exiting system of oppression.

  • Deny your role in oppression.

Some "thou shalts":

  • Interrupt offensive jokes.

  • Vote for change.

  • Notice the numerous intersections between different forms of oppression.

The path to righteousness is narrow indeed.

In secular religions, judgment cannot be left up to the Almighty, but carried out by mere mortals; this page offers tools by which Residence Hall Directors can examine and evaluate their Resident Assistants' worthiness ("Works Toward Social Justice") or unworthiness ("Works Against Social Justice"). Staff are urged to "self-assess" (or "confess"), by answering such questions as "Have you spent significant time in your life interacting and getting to know a person(s) who comes from a vastly different background than yours?" and "Are you able to articulate the difference between oppression and discrimination?"

There's even the equivalent of Bible Camp Activities, expressed here as "Programs/Enrichments", broken down by "Multicultural Identifier" (one or more of: "Ability", "Class", "Gender", "Race/Ethnicity", "Religious/Spiritual", or "Sexual Orientation") and by "Level" (how far along the path to enlightenment the subject is: "Awareness", "Skills", "Knowledge", "Social Action"). Some categories are sparsely populated; the only one under "Religious/Spiritual" is watching Schindler's List.

Each Program/Enrichment is labeled with a "Risk" level: "Low", "Medium", or "High". I can't find any indication of what the "Risk" is; I speculate that it's the risk that participants may start reacting against arrant manipulative bullshit and thereby become Heretics. Readers—white readers only, please—might want to check out the White Privilege Checklist; anyone can fill out their Cultural Coat of Arms!

Now, we're not quite as bad as the UDel program here—that "Kim Jong-Il" crack in the title was a total cheap shot. But indoctrination is indoctrination, even when done with a smiley face, using tools imported not from Pyongyang, but from 1950s Sunday School.

There's a respectable argument that the "diversity" ideology is a lousy way to heal social wounds and decrease irrational hatreds and suspicions. You won't hear even a whisper of that argument from Residential Life, though. While pretending to worship "diversity", they're averse to admitting that particular manifestation of actual diversity even exists.


[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

It's easy to call this a chick flick; it revolves around Jenna, a waitress trapped in a loveless marriage to Earl, an abusive lout; in the opening scenes, she discovers that she's pregnant. She is (since she's played by Keri Russell) beautiful; she also has an extraordinary talent at pie-making, and she's smart enough to know that she's paying a huge price for her poor judgment in the past. The movie was written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, who also has a small part as one of Jenna's co-workers.

But it transcends chickflickiness to be just a good, enjoyable movie. Jenna's character is well-developed, and so are the raft of supporting characters. The great Captain Mal, Nathan Filion, takes a role as Jenna's doctor, and (sorry for the spoiler, but you'll notice this pictured on the DVD box) they strike up an unprofessional relationship. Her co-workers also have their amusing romantic escapades.

Jenna remains (at best) ambivalent to the baby growing inside her; she sees it primarily as yet another insurmountable obstacle to her plans to get away from Earl. The movie plays this well, and her fate, and her baby's, remain unresolved and uncertain until the end.

Andy Griffith plays Old Joe, the cantankerous owner of the restaurant. If the Oscar folks have a fraction of sentiment they'll give him at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role here. (A little Googling tells me I'm not alone in this opinion.)

So, guys: if you want to appear sensitive and caring to your Significant Other, you might want to check this one out. She'll appreciate the break from 13 consecutive Bruce Willis movies.

Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:08 PM EDT