Monday, May 12, 2008

Debating the Delaware Program

My post on the University of Delaware program is up at Minding the Campus, along with a response by Adam Kissel of FIRE. Here's my response to him:

Adam Kissel writes a response to my Minding the Campus piece on the University of Delaware controversy. It’s notable that virtually every criticism Kissel makes is about last year’s program and its implementation. By all appearances, the minor errors Delaware made with RAs being too aggressive in encouraging students are completely fixed. The proposal explicit says that these programs are voluntary, and students will be informed of this (which makes it far better than most colleges).

According to Kissel, the current proposal is “a document that requires some intelligent deconstructing.” That’s intellectual-speak for “making things up.” Since there’s nothing actually wrong with the proposal in free speech terms, Kissel is left to wild speculations about hurt feelings: “University of Delaware freshmen will be put in the position where they must make a choice between attending the politicized pizza party or hiding out in their rooms, alone. Given ResLife's history, staff, and stated goals, the idea that students will be able to opt out cannot be taken seriously.”

Really? Does anyone seriously think that students will become social lepers if they skip a stupid pizza party? Does anyone seriously think that students must “hide” in their rooms at a research university if they don’t like the views expressed at a pizza party? Does anyone actually have a legal right to depoliticized free pizza? Exactly when did FIRE decide to act In Loco Parentis to protect the hypothetical “feelings” of students who disagree with ResLife?

Kissel even objects that “the ‘program goals’ advertised in the proposal are elsewhere called ‘learning outcomes.’" I don’t care if they called them “fried parakeet.” They’re still perfectly legitimate educational programs and must be met with counterspeech, not banishment. And Kissel still refuses to explain how banning a voluntary program is compatible with any notion of free expression.

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