By Karin Agness
Thursday, October 18, 2007
While the effort to adopt a mandatory diversity course has been successfully defeated on many college campuses, this threat to academic integrity is reappearing in the form of a “Community Engagement” program on campuses.
Program proponents claim it will enhance the students’ academic experience. Program opponents, however, recognize the program for what it is—an attempt by liberals to control both the thoughts of students through the political bias of so many professors and the actions of students through rewarding them with credit for participation in specific community activities.
For example, the latest report by the Commission on Diversity and Equity at the University of Virginia (UVA) calls for a “Community Engagement” program. The Program would award “Community Engagement” points to students who enroll in certain classes, attend academic and cultural events, work within the local community or participate in organizations which focus on issues of diversity and equity. After earning a certain number of points and completing a final project, students would be awarded with six academic credits and a note, “successfully completed Community Engagement Program,” on their transcript.
“Community Engagement?” It sounds harmless. But when thinking about how a program like this would be implemented, the danger becomes apparent.
The Commission calls for a full-time faculty member to serve as the administrator, who would be responsible for creating the list of opportunities which are point-worthy. By selecting which classes are point-worthy and the number of points assigned to each, the administrator would be able to implement mandatory diversity courses through the backdoor.
This selection problem applies to activities as well. The administrator would have much discretion in determining which activities deal with diversity and equity. This week, for example, a student group at UVA held a workshop entitled the “Sexual Arts & Crafts Workshop.” The advertisement for the Workshop read, “Come learn about sexual health in a fun, creative way! Featured tables will include: Contraceptive Options table, How-to-put-on-a-condom table (with banana races), Condom crafts (how to make a dental dam), advocacy table, a lube tasting bar, and educational coloring books! We will also be making costumes for our Halloween ‘condom fairies’ night, decorating surprise-shaped cookies, and MUCH MORE.”
Is this a cultural event? Does this include work with the local community? Does this promote (gender) equity? A “Community Engagement” program administrator could easily make the argument that this Workshop qualifies. Participation in the “Sexual Arts and Crafts Workshop” is just the type of ridiculous left-wing community activity that students would earn credit for under a “Community Engagement” program.
Thus, by picking and choosing which activities are included in the “Community Engagement” program, universities are able to push their political agenda on students both inside and outside the classroom.
There are different forms of “Community Engagement” programs already in place across the country. The University of Texas at Austin has a Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. The University of Central Missouri has an Office of Community Engagement, which “engages surrounding communities to collaboratively address social justice and community issues.” In September, Amherst College even launched a Center for Community Engagement.
A greater prevalence of “Community Engagement” programs could easily fuel more left-wing activities on campuses. For example, campaigns to increase the minimum wage of university employees, living wage campaigns, swept colleges a few years ago. With a “Community Engagement” program on campuses throughout the country, students would not only receive encouragement from the faculty for participation in these campaigns as they often do now, but would receive college credit. As part of its campaign, the living wage campaign at UVA held protests, interrupted a meeting of the Board of Visitors, defaced University property, called the University President’s home at all hours of the night and staged a “sit-in,” during which the participants sat in the President’s Office until they were arrested.
Is this work with the local community? Arguably, yes. Is this participation in an organization that focuses on equity? Arguably, yes. Through “Community Engagement” programs, colleges would be encouraging this behavior. Colleges shouldn’t be giving students academic credit for protesting.