Maricopa Community Colleges Challenge State Law With New Critical Race Theory Seminars

By Corinne Murdock

Maricopa Community Colleges (MCCCD), announced they will offer educational events on critical race theory and other social justice topics through new “Cultural Humility and Equity Office Hours.” Both students and faculty may participate in these optional events, which run from next week until the end of 2022.

The content of the Cultural Humility and Equity Office Hours challenges recently-passed state laws. House Bill (HB) 2898 prohibits schools from teaching students that any race, ethnic group, or sex is superior to another and/or deserving of discrimination. Schools in violation of the law may be fined up to $5,000 for each violation. House Bill (HB) 2906 prohibits the state and any local government from requiring employee trainings, orientations, or therapies suggesting that someone is inherently and either consciously or subconsciously racist, sexist, or oppressive. Governor Doug Ducey signed both bills into law over the course of this summer; however, they don’t go into effect until September 29.

Although these Cultural Humility and Equity Office Hours are characterized as optional, MCCCD Board Member Kathleen Winn told AZ Free News that there’s an unofficial expectation for faculty to participate. This pressure reportedly comes from the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC).

“[The faculty] are in fear. When something like this happens and they feel differently, they pretty much just suck it up because what happens is retaliation. Retaliation is alive and well at the community college. They retaliate against someone that’s against their doctrine,” explained Winn.

As of press time, AZ Free News learned that none have taken legal action against MCCCD.

MCCCD Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Engagement (DEIE) issued the announcement last week. Their first event, “Racelighting and Critical Race Theory,” will occur on Wednesday. According to the supplementary reading list for the event, racelighting is a take on gaslighting in which members of any race except the white race second-guess their experiences of racism and/or don’t recognize that negative life circumstances or events are a result of systemic racism.

Other readings for Wednesday’s event include a bill of rights for “people of mixed heritage,” and a 2014 article discussing critical race theory in K-12 and higher education. Critical race theory proponents have argued that critical race theory isn’t being taught in K-12 schools.

The other upcoming events for this year are: “Hiring Equity” with Professor Jaime Herrera, September 1; “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” September 8; “Dismantling Microaggressions in STEM and MCCCD” categorized as a “nationally recognized student-led session” and led by Dr. Nicole Neal, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and students, date to be determined; “Structural Oppression in Higher Education: Accessibility” with Drs Jo Pina and Karen Winters, Justin Yarbrough, and Lisa Hitzler, October 13; “The Shift of Political Parties in the U.S.” by Professor John Coughlin, November 3; and “The Power of Music” by Professor Rod Golden. Next year, there is currently one event scheduled for each month.

Next year’s topics include “Educational Equity: The Ungrading Project,” “Educational Equity: What LGBTQT Students Want,” “Intersecting Religion with other Social Identities,” and “What it Means to Be White in the USA.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.