University of Georgia (UGA) student Chris Chiego published an op-ed in today’s edition of The Red and Black, UGA’s student newspaper, describing a number of issues that have occurred within the university’s residential life program. Recently, an entire floor of a dorm at the university was fined as a result of vandalism in a shared bathroom. As Chiego puts it, "Collective punishment should have gone out of fashion when we had to stay in for recess in fifth grade after one person decided to throw an apple across the lunchroom." Other problems are more serious, and include housing policies forbidding "acts of intolerance," which are apparently defined as any "behaviors that, by intent and/or outcome, harm or threaten to harm a person or group." Chiego ridicules the absurdly overbroad policy, stating:
The biggest problem with that definition is the emphasis on "outcome" – practically anything could count as an act of intolerance if someone chose to interpret an action or statement that way.
Say a joke that someone happens to find offensive? Act of intolerance.
Hold the door for someone who finds it sexist? Act of intolerance. Laugh at someone’s Guitar Hero-playing ability? Act of intolerance.
In fact, this column is likely an act of intolerance if someone perceives it as such. I apologize in advance to any other Red & Black columnists who get collectively punished by Housing for what I write in this column.
Chiego then transitions into a discussion of the residential life reeducation program at the University of Delaware (UD), which FIRE helped to expose and end last year. "As unusual as our University’s Department of Housing may seem," he cautions, "we still have nothing on the University of Delaware’s." Highlighting some of the most egregious aspects of last year’s program, Chris then encourages the university community to let the UD case be a warning to those who aren’t vigilant in defending students’ rights:
Fortunately, our University Housing has not gone that far, but the UD case illustrates how powerful Housing departments can become. Students deserve to be treated like adults and not subjected to arbitrary regulations and actions.
Chiego is quite right that UD, one of FIRE’s most horrendous cases, should serve as a reminder to college students and faculty of the danger of not jealously guarding their rights on campus.