It looks as if the University Follies aren’t over, even though the academic year of 2015-2016 has ended. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a previously respected school—the University of Wisconsin at Madison—is going to require 1000 of its entering students to receive “cultural compentency training” this fall, and then for all its first years (over 7,000) to get that training in the fall of 2017. The new program is called “Our Wisconsin,” and is described in a University Press release. The program is more or less what you’d expect: an attempt to indoctrinate students into a politically correct point of view:
“College is often the first time where people are exposed to people who are different from themselves — those could be religious differences, racial, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation,” says Joshua Moon Johnson, who is leading the program’s development as interim special assistant to the Vice Provost for Student Life. Most of the problems seen on college campuses stem from ignorance, not malice, he says.
Johnson, who chairs the UW–Madison Hate and Bias Incident Team says many of the incidents reported to the team involve disrespectful speech that was intended to be funny or inquisitive. Those result from people lacking an understanding of the historical context surrounding race, difference and violence, he says.
The training will be conducted in person in two sessions. It will provide an opportunity to discuss topics such as identity, culture and microaggressions.
“This pilot is an effort to definitely create some broad awareness of difference — not to tell people how to think, but to tell people how to critique the ways in which they think,” Johnson says.
And if you believe that last line, I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you. The dissimulation here is revealed by what was said by one organizer of the “Our Wisconsin” team:
Katrina Morrison, a junior from Milwaukee, is one of the students who are helping to shape the program. She campaigned as a representative for the Associated Students of Madison pledging to address campus climate and continues to fight for progress on the Equity and Inclusion Committee.
“We wanted to talk about privilege. What is white privilege? What are sets of privileges that we all have?” says Morrison. “It’s okay that we all have these different sets of privileges and identities and we can still coexist.”
Yes, so long as the “privileged” acknowledge their status and the shame that is supposed to accompany it.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports a bit more:
Michael Davis, a black graduate student who helped organize a protest this spring, said the training program could be one step toward improving the campus. But he said UW shouldn’t only address racism on an individual level, and must take steps to combat structural inequality.
“Cultural competency has a place when done right,” Davis said. “But ultimately if the University of Wisconsin wants to see real change, they’ll shift power to students.”
Now I don’t mind students being acquainted with a college’s rules and sanctions when they enter, but I do bridle at what seems like ideological indoctrination. The indication that “privilege” will be a part of this indoctrination suggests that we have an Authoritarian Leftist program. “Disrespectful speech” will certainly be taught as a no-no, as will “microaggressions.”
I wonder, but doubt, whether there will also be a unit on freedom of expression. So, readers, do you think such training should be part of the college experience?