Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Thoughts on Delaware

Here's some thoughts of mine from an email I sent to a Delaware student who is a liberal but was very critical of ResLife:

There were two types of opposition to the ResLife plans. One came from students and faculty on campus, left and right, who were annoyed by the stupid and obnoxious ResLife administrators, and who wanted to have more involvement in the process.

The second came from national conservative groups who oppose voluntary educational programs about controversial subjects and want to have them reduced or removed from colleges. These groups think colleges are too “politicized” and want to banish political discussions from educational institutions as much as possible.

If you read Adam Kissel’s post, “Partial Victory for Freedom of Conscience,” this becomes clearer. The “partial” victory is the reforms you helped support. The total victory they want, though, is to have the Board of Trustees ban the program entirely. So when you say, “No one right-wing or left-wing was calling for the purposal to be banned completely,” that’s not true. FIRE and other national conservative groups want the proposal to be banned completely and ResLife limited to planning apolitical pizza parties.

So that’s what I mean when I wrote that they’re using you as a pawn. Now, it’s possible that you’re not a pawn, and you agree with them in part. I worry about your goal that “sustainability to be limited to environmental sustainability.” FIRE and others want to use this to say that ResLife shouldn’t have any events or information about, say, African American Heritage Month, because that’s not related to the environment. I can’t understand why ResLife shouldn’t be allowed (and encouraged) to develop any voluntary programs they want to.

The issue here is indeed freedom of conscience. And if someone tells ResLife staff that they’re not allowed to organize voluntary events deemed too controversial, that violates their freedom of conscience and the freedom of conscience of students who might want to participate in those activities.

I’m a big supporter of freedom of conscience, and I expect the ResLife will be closely monitored to make sure they don’t violate it.

I would suggest one more reform that’s needed. I think there should be a clear statement that any students in the dorms, and any faculty and staff, are invited to organize voluntary educational programs in the dorms, and guidelines for how to allow that to happen. I think this would do a lot more to protect freedom of conscience than any attempts to limit activities organized by ResLife.

I hope that you’ll ask the Board of Trustees to support the revised proposal, and not to give in to right-wing groups who seek to ban staff from organizing events disliked by conservatives.

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