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ASU Sued Over ‘Discriminatory’ Inclusivity Training

March 28, 2024

By Staff Reporter |

Arizona State University (ASU) is facing a lawsuit over the inclusivity training it mandates for faculty. 

The Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute sued the university earlier this month over the allegedly discriminatory training, on behalf of longtime ASU philosophy and religious studies professor Dr. Owen Anderson. The organization specifically alleged that ASU’s training violated Arizona law, A.R.S. § 41-1494(A), prohibiting trainings, orientations, or therapies that present any blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex. 

“Arizona state law prohibits mandatory training for state employees and use of taxpayer resources to teach doctrines that discriminate based on race, ethnicity, sex, and other characteristics,” said Goldwater Staff Attorney Stacy Skankey in a press release.

Contested aspects of the ASU training, “ASU Inclusive Communities,” required faculty to acknowledge the history of white supremacy and social conditions persisting its existence as a structural phenomenon; society’s normalization of white supremacy; the sociohistorical legacy of racism, sexism, homophobia, and structural inequalities that impact minority faculty; white privilege; antiracism; and the relationship between sexual identities and power and the privilege of heterosexuality. 

The training also included a video to which Anderson objected. The video encouraged faculty to “critique whiteness,” and to ascribe definite beliefs of good and evil as inherently racist. 

“And what colonization did, was it really created this system of binary thinking,” stated the video. “There were folks that were inherently good and folks that were inherently bad, and that led to the systems of superiority that were then written into the foundational documents of our Nation.” 

In addition to completing the training, ASU required faculty to pass an exam. The correct answers for that exam reinforced controversial concepts of systemic bias, intersectionality, land acknowledgement, equity, decolonization, microaggressions, and social justice. The Goldwater Institute claimed in their lawsuit that the inclusivity training only served to teach concepts of blame or judgment based on race, ethnicity, or sex. 

“The Inclusive Communities training provides discriminatory concepts including, but not limited to: white people are inherently racist and oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; heterosexuals are inherently sexist and oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; white people should receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of their race or ethnicity; white people bear responsibility for actions committed by other white people; land acknowledgement statements are a way of holding one race or ethnicity responsible for the actions committed by other members of the same race or ethnicity; transformative justice calls for an individual to bear responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race, ethnic group or sex; and dominant identities (whites or heterosexuals) are treated morally or intellectually superior to other races, ethnic groups or sexes.”

As justification for its call of decolonization, the ASU training also challenged the validity and goodness of the American founding. 

In a press release, Anderson said that his employment shouldn’t hinge on his submitting to ideas that conflict with his beliefs.

“This ‘training’ is simply racism under the guise of DEI. It goes against my conscience, and I want no part of it,” said Anderson.

The contents of this training were obtained last May through a public records request by the Goldwater Institute. Prior to filing the lawsuit earlier this month, the organization sent a letter to the Arizona Board of Regents last fall asking ASU to cease and desist spending on the inclusivity training and others like it that allegedly run afoul of state antidiscrimination law. 

The university requires faculty to repeat the inclusivity training every two years. 

The case, Anderson v. Arizona Board of Regents, is in the Maricopa County Superior Court.

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