Professor sues Arizona State University over its compulsory DEI training

Image: Arizona State U., Tempe

A conservative professor is suing Arizona State University, arguing that its compulsory diversity, equity and inclusion training for professors violates a two-year-old state law that bars subjecting public employees to training “that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.”

Owen Anderson, a professor of philosophy, religious studies and theology, is suing with legal assistance from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Arizona.

Professor Anderson’s complaint says ASU’s DEI training requires staff to agree that white heterosexuals are inherently racist and oppressive, in its discussion of white privilege and social justice.

It alleges that the training, and the exam that follows it, violate not just state law, but also the Arizona Constitution’s free-speech provisions.

“Anderson contends that requiring that he take the Inclusive Communities exam and attest agreement to its principles by taking an exam that predetermined the ‘correct’ answers violates his rights under the Arizona Constitution,” the complaint says.

In response to the lawsuit, a campus spokesperson defended the training, saying, “Arizona State University is committed to the success of each one of its students who come from all 50 states, 150 different countries and all socio-economic backgrounds. To help meet that goal, consistent with [state law], ASU provides its employees Inclusive Communities training which promotes an environment of respect for all backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences.”

Professor Anderson, an ASU instructor for two decades, has previously expressed opposition to DEI trainings on Twitter and in legislative hearings.

“In my own experience, I have found that this kind of DEI training is used to discriminate against Christians. Christians are the center of the ‘intersectionality’ circle,” Anderson said on March 18. “All other types of oppression are traced to Christians in this view. And therefore, they can be treated poorly. After all, so this thinking goes, it is their turn, and they deserve it.”

The Goldwater Institute’s complaint is 187 pages long, with 14 pages of allegations, followed by 173 pages of exhibits, reproducing the training and tests ASU professors must take. The latter were obtained through an Arizona Public Records Act request, which ASU belatedly responded to by releasing the training and tests after considerable delay.

“The slides included statements or concepts including, but not limited to: acknowledging the history of white supremacy and social conditions for it to exist as a structural phenomenon; how perceptions of authority and control are not granted to minoritized faculty; racism takes the form of innocuous questions or comments; and heterosexuality is privileged and goes unquestioned,” says the Goldwater Institute.

“The video transcript included … the following statements or concepts: it scares people to be called a white supremacist; we have to open the space to critique whiteness; and white supremacy was written into the foundational documents of our Nation. The Inclusive Communities training thus promulgated and funded concepts of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex in violation of Arizona law.”

Last September 2023, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to ASU’s Board of Regents demanding that the university stop spending money on the training, which it alleged was illegal, but ASU did not do so.

Earlier, ASU shut down the  T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development after it hosted two well known conservatives — Charlie Kirk and Dennis Prager — triggering angry protests from professors.

Faculty are not the only people being subjected to ideologically-driven training. Other colleges are students to take ideologically-driven classes. Northern Arizona University now requires students to take four diversity courses to graduate, all rooted in left-wing “critical theory.”

At Bates College, students have to take an ideologically-slanted class on “Race, Power, Privilege, and Colonialism.” It is designed to peddle the false notion that countries are underdeveloped due to colonialism. In reality, Third World countries that were not colonized are less economically advanced than those that were colonized, as the father of modern Liberia, William Tubman, noted. Tubman, who served as Liberia’s president from 1944 to 1971, observed that Liberia was economically poorer than its neighbors because it had not had “the benefits of colonization.” Colonization of Third World countries usually made them more agriculturally and economically productive, eventually curbed the practice of slavery, and led to the abolition of barbaric practices like suttee (the burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyre). On the other hand, many people were killed by colonizers in places like the Congo, Namibia, and Tanzania.

Most people in many pre-colonization African societies were slaves: For example, the slave population accounted for two-thirds to three-quarters of the total population of Songhay-Zarma people, who created the Songhai Empire. That empire was the successor of the similarly heavily-enslaved Mali Empire celebrated in progressive high-school textbooks, whose most famous leader, Mansa Musa, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca with an entourage of 12,000 slaves to cater to his every desire.

George Mason University, Virginia’s largest university, will soon require students to take two social justice courses. It’s the “return of compulsory chapel,” says Walter Olson, a trustee of a college in neighboring Maryland who is critical of such requirements. GMU students taking such courses will have “to demonstrate” “competencies” in “diversity,” “equity”, and “inclusion,” which critics view as veiled ideological litmus tests.

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