Brainwashing In Academe: The Resident Assistant`s Tale

As a Resident Assistant (student
counselor) in an undergraduate dorm in a well-known
Catholic university, I was anything but surprised at
Kevin Carter`s recent article

"Brainwashing Backfires in Academe"
. The

diversity training
in which Carter was forced to
participate is a

staple
of student activities at universities
spanning the country. And it`s even worse from the
inside.

As a student employee of the
university, I have been force-fed diversity
indoctrination non-stop.

When I first interviewed for an RA
job, a group of us were given the task of designing an
ideal residence hall. Our interviewers observed our
ability to work together.

When we presented our design (an
ivy covered dorm, spiraling like

the Guggenheim
, complete with a rooftop garden and
swimming pool, a small theater, game room,
state-of-the-art study spaces and a printing center),
our interviewers were impressed by our creativity and
enthusiasm. But they asked only two questions:

  • How would you encourage any
    students who may not support GLBTQA to become

    "persons of care"
    ?

GLBTQA?

Persons of care?

These terms were foreign to me. And
context clues weren`t serving me well. I stepped back
and let my fellow students stumble and stutter their way
through some confused answers.

None of us were hired.

Last year, I applied again for the
same position and again went through the same interview
process. But this time, I saw it coming. I included in
my imaginary residence hall a mosque, a prayer room, a
temple, a chapel, and a

"rainbow room"
for what I now know is the

Gay
,

Lesbian
, Bisexual,

Transsexual
, Queer, and

Asexual

community.

There wasn`t room for the theater,
the game room or the printing center—but, hey, I was
hired.

Since my hire, I`ve been required
to sit through nine mandatory hours of

"Safe Space"

training. "Safe Space" means creating a
supportive environment for GLB etc. I`ve been given more
than 70 pages of literature on how to develop "Safe
Spaces"
.

I also received a glossary of terms
that are acceptable and not acceptable to use in my
position. "Boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are
out, unless used in conjunction—as in "do you have a
boyfriend or girlfriend?",
thereby avoiding the
assumption of heterosexuality.

My emails, online profiles, and
bedroom decorations are

subject to inspection
if I am

suspected
of violating any diversity policies.

I was told to place myself on
something called the

Riddle Homophobia Scale.
  I chose the
"acceptance"
level.  As it turned out,
"tolerance"
and "acceptance" are still
considered "homophobic" ("implies there is

something to accept
")
. Ultimately, I was told, I
should aim to find myself nurturing GLBTQA, wherein I
will realize that "gay/lesbian people are
indispensable to our society"
, and will view GLBTQAs
with "genuine affection and delight," manifested
by an eagerness to be an ally and advocate for their
community.

I was expected to sign a

statement
that said, among other things:

"I am
committed to educating myself and others about
oppression, heterosexism, and homophobia, and combating
them on a personal level. I am committed to working
toward providing a safe, confident support network for
members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
community…I am the product of a heterosexist culture and
I am who I am. I do not have to feel guilty about what I
know or believe, but I do need to take responsibility
for what I can do now. I will struggle to change my
false/inaccurate beliefs or oppressive attitudes towards
gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."

All this at a

Catholic university!

And that was just the bit about
sexual orientation. A few

racial
and

cultural
lessons were slipped in as well. They were
equally ridiculous. But GLBTQA issues took up the
greater portion of our time in diversity and Safe Space
training—interestingly, given our location in a city
with a huge black and immigrant Hispanic population.

At one point, the 60+ of us were
divided into "break-out" groups to discuss
different problems as a group. My group was given the
following problem:

"Weisia
is an international student from Poland, who is
beginning her
[college] experience as the first
member of her family to go to college. Moreover, this is
her first time in the United States, and she is living
with Gina, a student from an

upper class,
predominantly-white, suburban college
prep school. Weisia brought two small suitcases with her
on the airplane. Gina, with the help of her physician
parents, brought a truckload of items to school,
including a $50 high-speed, state-of-the-art hairdryer,
a new neon-colored

George Foreman Grill
with
3 settings,
and her entire wardrobe, including

14 pair of shoes.
Within the first week of school,
Weisia comes to you distraught. She has realized that
she has not brought all the `necessities for college
life` with her. Gina apparently suggested that she
purchase certain items, and even provided her own
shopping list which included

Mentadent
, Kleenex, make-up, and 24-pack of

Mike`s Hard Lemonade
, and a high-powered television
antenna. Weisia only has a $20 bill with her."

We were then expected to define and
address the issues within this problem, which could be
located on the

"wall of oppression"
(a poster of a brick wall,
each brick emblazoned with the a word like "ageism",
"ableism",
"classism",
"beautyism",
"racism"
or "ethnocentrism").

Once we pinpointed these
transgressions, we could discuss how to overcome them,
and how to include the Office of Student Diversity
staff.

One of the Student Diversity staff
members turned to our group and said: "We`re not
trying to change anyone`s world view, we just trying to
help you understand the world differently."

No-one blinked an eye.

(The spokespeople for our group
decided that, yes, this was a case of discrimination,
even if the American girl, Gina, didn`t realize it.
Ignorance is no excuse, and the RA should take Gina
aside and explain to her that intruding behavior was
discriminatory and that she should

share
her

expensive things.
Ironically, my friends in the
advising office tell me that if I want to have a good
time, I should make friends with the

exchange students.
Coming to an

American school
is not cheap, and they usually have
money to burn!)

The encouraging thing about Kevin
Carter`s report was the backlash he observed
post-brainwashing. No such phenomena took place after my
experience. The few of us RAs that have banded
together—all female, the men say nothing, perhaps
because many are themselves gay—quietly whisper
"hypocrisy"
in back corners of basement apartments.
But any more than that threatens our employment.

And, for a broke college student,
free room and board plus a stipend makes it impractical
not to sell out our values.


Athena Kerry (email
her
)
recently graduated from a Catholic university somewhere in
America.