Professor Sues Over Mandatory DEI Training

Arizona State University
Arizona State University | Imaged by Arizona State University

A professor of philosophy, religious studies, and theology at Arizona State University has filed a complaint against a state body over mandatory “diversity, equity, and inclusion” training.

Owen Anderson has taught at ASU for 21 years and is a pastor at the Historic Christian Church of Phoenix. He was thrust into the spotlight this week after filing a lawsuit against Arizona’s Board of Regents (ABR). He is being represented by the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based libertarian public policy think tank.

Anderson claims that ABR is “using public money to prepare and disseminate mandatory faculty and staff training for its employees that presents forms of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex, in violation of state law.”

His complaint alleges that Arizona state law prohibits discriminatory practices, citing A.R.S. § 41-1494, which was revised in 2022.

“This state, a state agency or a city, town, county or political subdivision of this state may not require an employee to engage in training, orientation or therapy that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex,” the law reads.

Anderson’s lawsuit demands “declaratory and injunctive relief” against the alleged “compelling” of public employees’ speech for the purposes of DEI training.

“ASU has proudly declared its commitment to promulgating [DEI] in many aspects of its operations,” requiring its employees to complete training both upon being hired and every two years, per the complaint.

Anderson took to X to bring attention to his lawsuit.

“When people see the content of this required training, they are stunned. It is far beyond learning how to work in a diverse setting. Instead, it is about race blame, ‘whiteness,’ and silencing those who disagree,” he stated.

Those who support DEI suggest that such initiatives are critical to creating a sense of community based on equal opportunity.

“Data shows, DEI efforts help create an academic community that generates a higher enrollment rate, matriculation rate, and eventual success rate,” wrote Laura Lanese, president and CEO of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, in an open letter last May.

“DEI is for students with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, minority students, and students who are New Americans who may need extra help due to language or cultural barriers. DEI helps more students achieve the American Dream of success via a college education,” the letter continues.

The Goldwater Institute also reported that ASU students enrolled at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication are required to take a DEI course. The instruction therein includes guidance on using the correct pronouns and avoiding microaggressions that may be construed as offensive.

In Texas, DEI was banned at taxpayer-funded universities through the passage of SB 17, which was enacted on January 1. While some institutions of higher learning have made changes to or scrapped their DEI-related policies, others have come under scrutiny for alleged violations. For instance, Dallas College and the University of Houston have been flagged for reportedly flouting the new rule by renaming or relocating DEI departments and programs, as covered by The Dallas Express.

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