Orientation Indoctrination: Update
We did not have the script of the monologues that students were exposed to before the “Take a Stand” exercise, nor did we have the instructions to Orientation staff people who lead the exercise. The Division of Student Affairs, which we asked to provide them, failed to do so. Our sources were students who had been through the exercise.
This past Tuesday (September 21) we finally met with Jeff Janz, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, and L. Christopher Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs. They defended the program, and gave us access to the script and several sheets of guidelines and instructions given to both discussion leaders and new Freshmen.
The information gives a more rounded picture of the program, but doesn’t change our bottom-line interpretation: students (especially socially conservative students) are being pressured to take certain positions on pain of being singled out for having bad attitudes.
First: the monologues. Courtesy of Jeff Janz, here is a list of the subjects addressed the in monologues:
1. Homelessness/urban issues
2. Alcohol use/abuse
3. Sexual assault/date rape
4. Racial/ethnic diversity
5. Sexual orientation
6. Decision making re: sexual behaviors
8. Body image
Some of the monologues are innocuous enough. Briefing students on problems of “body image” and “depression” is just fine.
The one on “sexual assault/date rape” isn’t quite as politically correct as it might sound. The narrator is a woman with a friend whom she accompanies to a party. Her friend hooks up with a guy, has copious amounts of alcohol, “makes out” with the fellow for quite long time, and then the next morning thinks she might have been raped. She “thinks” she said “no,” but given her drunken stupor can’t be sure.
When the monologue ends, students are informed in an “Interim” [sic] that a woman can’t legally consent to sex when she is drunk. This doctrine does no woman much good, since only a tiny proportion of women who acted so irresponsibly will report the “rape” (or rape, if she really did say “no”). But as a warning about what can happen if you are plastered and fooling around with a guy, this is a worthwhile exercise.
Likewise, another monologue features a male actor talking about the difficulty of resisting pressure to consume alcohol.
Discouraging Illicit Sex – Among Heterosexuals
There is a monologue that discourages illicit sex. The narrator, a woman, has been going out with a guy for a few weeks, likes him a lot, and wonders whether she should “take the relationship to the next level.” Her friends, several of whom have had casual sexual “hook ups” with guys, tell her “go for it.”
At that point a statement is read saying that Marquette, as a Catholic institution, believes in sex only within marriage. There have to have been at least a few smirks at this.
But more compellingly, the voice of the girl’s mother is heard, telling her “your dad and I raised you with really strong values” and “remember where you came from.”
Getting More Controversial
One monologue has the moderator, a white male, talking about “James,” his black roommate. He is at first worried that he might “say or do the wrong thing,” but thinks “people are people,” and the two get along great.
But then his black roommate opens up about some things that bother him. Two women moved their purses when he got on an elevator, apparently apprehensive that the fellow might snatch one of them. In a class discussing Jim Crow laws, students all turn to the student and ask questions, assuming that since he’s black, he’s an expert on all things racial.
The white narrator concludes that “after living with James and watching him get hurt, I could see that race does matter.”
Gay Guy in Chemistry Class
The next narrator, a male, talks about “Jason,” a fellow he met in Chemistry class, who is helping him with his homework. He finds out that “Jason” is gay, and has that confirmed when Jason answers his cell phone and (rather gratuitously) tells him that it’s his “boyfriend” who called.
“Jason” explains to the narrator that he’s unhappy with people saying “queer” or “faggot” to denote homosexuals, or saying something is “gay” when they mean it looks odd.
The narrator talked to his residence hall minister, who “said that the church embraced everyone, that Jesus loved people without passing judgments, and that he should do the same.”
The problem with this, of course, is that the Church does embrace everyone (including, for example, adulterers and racists), but it doesn’t “embrace” them by saying that sin is not sin.
Marquette certainly has an interest in seeing that gay and lesbian students don’t face a hostile environment, but it should never condone homosexual sex.
In fact, Marquette implicitly (but clearly) does condone homosexual sex. Homosexuals are treated as a politically correct victim group to be pandered to, and not a group of people who face temptations they need support in resisting. Interestingly, Freshman Orientation is willing to discourage (if rather tepidly) illicit straight sex (see above), but won’t do the same with homosexual sex!
The narrator in this monologue reports that “Jason” says that it was acceptable to make fun of blacks a generation ago, and that a century ago women were considered “lower class.” The narrator concludes “I am going to have to learn about people who are different from me.”
Translation: if you hold to the Catholic view of homosexuality you just don’t “know enough,” and are like racists or evil patriarchal males who kept women down.
Discussion and “Taking a Stand”
Students are then herded into small groups, and led in a discussion of what they have seen. Then they are required to “take a stand” by responding to a series of questions. They must move around the room, moving toward one side or the other, depending on which side of the issue they take, and how strongly they feel.
Janz has supplied us with the list of questions. The ones actually used will vary, and will never include all of the following. There is neither time nor patience for that.
1. The monologues made me think about issues that I haven’t dealt with before.
2. I feel comfortable living in the city.
3. I would feel comfortable choosing not to drink when my friends are.
4. I feel like race is not an issue in 2010.
5. I would feel comfortable going to the counseling center for help.
6. I would feel uncomfortable if a homeless person approached me.
7. Only women are victims of sexual assault.
8. I know how to react when asked for money.
9. I would be comfortable if I (or one of my friends) dated someone of a different race.
10. Being gay is a choice that people make.
11. People who have body image issues only care what other people think.
12. Because of past oppression, people of color should have more scholarship opportunities.
13. There is no such thing as bisexuality.
14. I feel people who are sexually assaulted bring it upon themselves
15. People do things that they don’t really mean when they are intoxicated.
16. I would not mind having a gay roommate.
17. I can always tell when a person is depressed.
18. People who ask for money are lazy and unwilling to find work for themselves.
19. Being intoxicated is an excuse for me to not take responsibility for my actions.
20. I would feel comfortable living with someone of a different race.
21. People should not use medication to fight depression or other behavioral mental disorders.
22. Only women are concerned with body image.
23. Men who cannot handle stress are weak.
24. College is a time to let loose and party.
To hear Student Affairs bureaucrats tell it, this is all a warm and fuzzy exercise in sharing feelings and perspectives. Janz claims that “students are encouraged not to take a ‘politically correct’ position, but rather an honest reflection of their feelings.” Julie Murphy, who runs the program, claims the purpose of the exercise is to “show students that students come from multiple perspectives and multiple backgrounds.”
People in Student Affairs may actually believe this, but the pervasive political correctness of that bureaucracy comes through both in the instructions given group leaders, and the instructions given students.
On the one hand, group leaders are told to “be respectful” and levy “no criticisms.” But they are also told to “realize that some people know more than others and that everyone is in a different place concerning diversity issues.” Note the condescending premise here: students who give the “wrong” response are just “less advanced” and “know less” than their more politically correct cohorts and group leaders.
Then there is this stunningly condescending observation: “It’s okay that you come from a small town.”
Suppose a group leader disagrees with a student? The leader is instructed: “confront ideas, not people.” The presumption seems to be that a green freshman who has his or her “ideas” confronted is not going to feel put down.
Suppose a student doesn’t want to face such “confrontation?” He or she is told “please don’t withdraw from the conversation.”
Stay Off the Line
Then when students are told to take a position, they face an environment that is equally threatening – at least, it is if they harbor unapproved attitudes. It might seen safe to stay in the exact (moderate) middle of the room, but students are instructed that “you may not step on the line of neutrality.” Group leaders are told “with each statement have a person from each side share why they feel the way that they do.”
Translation: you may be called upon to defend your position, and if you are on the side of the minority, you are especially likely to be called upon. Thus, no matter how much warm fuzzy rhetoric group leaders use (they are instructed to tell students that “this is a safe place”) it’s a very challenging place for students with politically incorrect attitudes.
One source (a social conservative) who participated in the process told us “because they are freshmen, and because they are a little bit intimidated, I feel a lot of students aren’t standing on the side they would stand on if they were by themselves or were with friends.” And further: “I know when I was a freshman it was very difficult for me to stand on the side that I thought was morally appropriate. . . .”
At the very end, students are instructed to “establish an action plan” detailing “what is your obligation.” Apparently, “my attitudes are just fine and I don’t need no stinkin’ plan” is not an approved response.
Student Affairs Responds
When we raised these concerns with Janz and Miller, Janz reacted like a defensive bureaucrat committed to the program. We pointed out to him that if the distribution of opinions in the “Take a Stand” exercise is lopsided, it pressures and singles-out students on the minority side. He responded that sometimes the distribution ought to be lopsided. He mentioned racism as an example.
(Our response what that we don’t want to pressure racists either, although hopefully we could educate such people.)
But the notion that racism (or homophobia) is behind all politically incorrect attitudes lurks in the background of these exercises.
Ironically, some of the monologues might cause students to take a superficially “racist” position. Consider, for example, the white student who had “James” as a roommate. Starting out as a naïve kid who just thought that “people are people,” he had to deal with the fact that “James” had been hurt, and was sensitive to all kinds of racial slights. He might decide that a black roommate is a challenge he’s not up to, or even that “James” deserves a black roommate who would “understand.”
Chris Miller seemed much more open to criticism of the program, insisting that he would like to hear from students who have felt pressured or coerced. He insisted that “the conservative voice needs to be heard on campus.” He quite readily agreed that students who hold Catholic views on sexuality should not be derided or demeaned.
Miller seems to be much more open and flexible than the former Vice President for Student Affairs, Fr. Andy Thon. Of course, we have toyed with the idea that Miller is neither, but merely much smarter and shrewder. For most purposes, it doesn’t much matter. He’s a much better person to hold the position.
The Ultimate Protection
One thing protects a lot of students from all this: they blow it off. In spite of the fact that this stuff is labeled “mandatory” in the Freshman Orientation program, a fair number of students just skip it.
Until and unless Student Affairs revises the program, stressing useful information and removing coercive charades, that’s exactly what we would recommend.