How Many Delawares?

In light of the scandal at the University of Delaware, the National Association of Scholars has begun an examination of residence-hall and student-life policies at colleges and universities around the country. Was Delaware an isolated case? We suspect not. There are numerous clues that what Delaware was doing is still happening in other institutions. We know, for example, that earlier this year Delaware’s residence-hall policies were held up as a model for officials at other institutions to emulate. We know as well that one of the key advisors who helped Delaware devise its program has had contracts with numerous other universities, ostensibly to provide similar advice.

Dr. Thomas Wood, below, provides some details on that consultant’s work.

Tom has worked for NAS before as a consultant and we have engaged him again to help us with our inquiry into how ideological indoctrination has been smuggled into programs that rightfully should aim at providing students with orderly and safe environments that are conducive to academic study.

We intend to provide some of our results as short postings on this site -- and longer postings as the findings warrant. We also aim, however, to produce a systematic study of the role that ideological indoctrination plays in residence-hall and student-life programs.

While we intend to take in the big picture, we aren’t going to neglect Delaware. The scandal there has yet to run its course. Patrick Harker, president of the University of Delaware, pulled the plug on this so-called “education program” on November 1, but the University has shown little sign of recognizing how far it had wandered from the principles of respect for free speech and free inquiry. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the academic civil rights organization that brought the Delaware scandal to light, is following through -- and so are the members of our affiliate, the Delaware Association on of Scholars at the University who helped FIRE expose the scandal. We may yet see a fuller explanation of how and why the University strayed as far as it did. We will know the University is serious about mending its ways when it replaces the administrators who created and condoned this debacle. High on that list is Vice President Michael Gilbert, who less than 24 hours before President Harker announced that the program would be closed, defended it as fully in accord with the University’s mission “to cultivate both learning and the free exchange of ideas.”

If Delaware’s version of “free exchange of ideas” is at all common in American higher education, we are in deep trouble. How many Delawares are there?

NAS member Donald Downs has asked a key question about Delaware, Where Was the Faculty? The faculty at the University of Delaware appears to have been kept in the dark about the mischief over in residence life. We are going to do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Peter Wood

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