“Take a Stand” During Freshman Orientation: Stalinist Thought Reform at Marquette
We have yet to blog about Freshman Orientation itself, but the time has come.
Over the years we have gotten chronic complaints from students who feel that they have been subjected to indoctrination at Orientation. When Adam Ryback, editor of The Warrior, asked us to write a piece on that, we did, and what follows is a somewhat adapted version of that article.
First, we have to note that most of the activities at Freshman Orientation are pretty innocuous. As the schedule shows, most of a student’s time is taken up with worthwhile advising, much of it on academic matters. But then many students skip those events. It’s typically much more fun to hang around, get to know people, spend some time with parents and siblings, and just soak up the atmosphere.
But some of the events are “mandatory.” And one set of mandatory events is quite problematic. It’s called “Marquette: On Stage,” which consists of a series of monologues the stated purpose of which is to heighten the “awareness” of students about certain “social issues” they will face.
We don’t have detailed information on this year’s monologues (something we’ll explain below), but we know lots about previous years, and the program changes only incrementally.
What Is The Nature of the Monologues?
Some of the monologues are innocuous enough: one from an actor playing a student who is pressured to drink when out with friends, another from a woman with “body image” problems, and one featuring a student who has problems with depression.
But some of the monologues are from politically correct “victim” groups. A gay guy complaining that people look at him in a funny way, or a black guy who believes a woman is uneasy when he gets on an elevator with her. Indeed, there are likely to be two or three ethnic minority monologues, each with a grievance.
So how is this biased? Mainly because only politically correct victim groups are presented as facing problems with intolerance and lack of acceptance. There is no monologue from a white student who is derided as the bearer of “white privilege” (something that happens with some frequency at Marquette). There is no monologue from a future cop who has to listen to leftie professors talk about how police are “racist.”
There is no monologue from a student who is demeaned for conservative religious values – perhaps derided for believing that sex outside marriage is wrong or opposing gay marriage. But intolerance of students who support Catholic teaching is indeed a problem on campus.
This past spring, there was a huge uproar about Marquette’s refusal to hire an outspoken lesbian as Arts & Sciences Dean. Just looking at protesting students, one might think that all undergraduates wanted the lesbian dean. But a fair number were silenced by the intolerance of pro-gay students. One Marquette senior complained on an online discussion forum: “Who would post what they actually think as their Facebook status? The answer is sadly very few, because to do so is to be labeled as an anti-gay bigot . . . and a blind follower of an ‘intolerant’ religion,” and further, “fear of labels silences the traditional Catholic voice.”
But there wasn’t a monologue reflecting this student’s plight.
But just having to sit and listen to some student actors representing politically correct groups mouth some standard grievances isn’t that terrible. And one indeed should try to avoid giving offense thoughtlessly.
But it gets much worse.
Take a Stand
Unfortunately, the monologues are just the beginning. Students are then herded into small groups and required to “take a stand.” Students are asked a question about how they feel on some issue, and then required to move to one side of the room or the other, depending on their opinion. Julie Murphy claims the purpose of the exercise is to “show students that students come from multiple perspectives and multiple backgrounds.”
But that’s just not so. The real purpose is to single out and pressure students who have dissenting (non-politically correct) opinions.
Some of the questions are innocuous. Students are asked to agree or disagree with the proposition “I feel comfortable living in a city” or “I would feel uncomfortable if a homeless person approached me.”
But other questions are more politically loaded, such as “because of past oppression people of color should have more scholarship opportunities.” Or “there is no such thing as bisexuality.” Or “I feel race is not an issue in 2009” (obviously, asked last year).
Or “Being gay is a choice people make.”
Think for a moment how biased that last question is. While lusting after one’s same sex rather than the opposite sex may be pretty much fixed at any point in a person’s life, having homosexual sex most certainly is a choice. Yet for the gay lobby, saying that homosexuality is “not a choice” translates as “gay sex is just fine.”
Most of these issues have been addressed in “Marquette: On Stage,” so students know the politically correct answer and disproportionally take the politically correct side. One source told us that “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. . . .”
So if you are a Freshman and your social attitudes don’t conform to those preferred by the University bureaucrats that run the program, you will likely get put on the spot.
This, of course, has nothing to do with education, which would present both sides of contentious issues and not pressure people. It’s more like Stalinist thought reform.
Marquette Bureaucrats Conceal the Details
Although we have ample sources from previous years, we wanted to actually look at the script of this year’s “Marquette: On Stage,” and see the list of questions put to students during the “Take a Stand” exercise.
But the bureaucrat who runs Freshman Orientation, Julie Murphy, flatly refused – when we contacted her on August 19th – to share the script. Two days after that (and the day after our deadline for the Warrior piece) Vice President for Student Affairs Chris Miller wrote us, explaining that he had been out of town, and saying “I did check into this and I absolutely believe you should have access to this information.” He went on to explain that:
They (Student Development) have a practice wherein they do not distribute detailed programming information prior to the event because it is always subject to change. I believe they did in fact release information prior to an event once and at the last minute cancelled or changed the program. This did not sit well with those who really wanted the event and planned accordingly.OK, we thought, we’ll get the script and list of questions when Freshman Orientation starts next week.
But they didn’t send it.
Then on August 26th we got an e-mail from Jeff Janz, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. He asked “Did you receive the information you were looking for?” We responded that we had not.
But then instead of sending it, he finally wrote us on September 2, saying “in follow up to our correspondences last week related to orientation activities, Dr. Miller asked that I check in to see if you might be interested in meeting with us to discuss the matter.” He suggested a meeting this coming Thursday or Friday.
We may or may not meet with Janz and Miller. We have participated in a couple of such meetings before when the Office of Student Development shut up the College Republicans, and they are never productive.
If OSD has a good reason for withholding the details of “Marquette: On Stage” and “Take a Stand,” we would like to know it.
Until they produce some compelling argument, the conclusion has to be that they want to conceal an exercise in indoctrination.