3:27 p.m., Oct. 31, 2007--The University of Delaware residential life educational program has been misrepresented and its goals distorted in a report generated this week by an advocacy group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The University is responding directly to the foundation by letter.
"The central mission of the University, and of the program, is to cultivate both learning and the free exchange of ideas," said Michael A. Gilbert, vice president for student life at the University. "Far from stifling free speech, the residential life educational program seeks to encourage free speech."
Students who choose to participate in the residence life educational program are not required to adopt any particular points of view but are presented with a range of ideas to challenge them and stimulate conversation and debate so that students can reflect on various topics, including diversity.
"Our goal as educators is to expose students to ideas and to engage them in self-examination of the roles they hope to take in society once they leave our campus," Gilbert said.
Students in residence halls are not forced to participate, and certainly are not forced to agree with any particular point of view. Students are faced with questions, but the answers to these questions are their own. There are no "correct" answers.
"The notion that students at the University of Delaware can be coerced into any one point of view does a great disservice not only to the institution but also to the student body, which is bright, creative and represents a wide array of thought," Gilbert said.
The residential life educational program, which has been developed with the express intent of helping students think critically and analytically, has had the input of student leaders, faculty and administrators and is continually assessed through feedback from individuals and through focus groups.