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Update: ASU responds to Goldwater Institute DEI training lawsuit

The Goldwater Institute is suing ABOR over mandatory faculty DEI training and looking into other diversity initiatives

asu charter breaking stock.jpg
The ASU charter on Tempe campus by University Drive on Monday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Tempe. Additional illustration elements added on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2024.

The Goldwater Institute is suing the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of Owen Anderson, a professor of philosophy and religious studies, and state resident D. Ladd Gustafson over the mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for ASU employees.

An ASU spokesperson said the lawsuit is "false and without merit," and said the University trains its faculty on its commitment to "inclusiveness and the success of students from all walks of life."

"The Goldwater Institute suit misleads the court and misrepresents both the content and requirements of this training to make an argument that represents a political perspective but is not based on the law," the spokesperson said in the statement. "ASU’s commitment to providing a supportive and welcoming educational environment for students of all backgrounds will continue and the university will respond appropriately to the Institute’s tactic.”

The lawsuit was filed with the Maricopa County Superior Court on March 19, and ASU was named specifically as being in violation of state law.

The lawsuit seeks the Court to declare the DEI training requirement "unconstitutional" and permanently enjoin ABOR from using public money "to impose, implement, administer, require, or grade the Inclusive Communities training that presents any form of blame or judgment."

The lawsuit references a state law that states that a state agency "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 lawsuit claims the training is "in violation of state law" because it uses taxpayer funds to mandate diversity training. Anderson has refused to participate in the training. 

"This 'training' is simply racism under the guise of DEI," Anderson said in a written statement from The Goldwater Institute. "It goes against my conscience, and I want no part of it." 

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank, said it was also looking into University journalism programs that teach students to "avoid 'microaggressions' and check their 'privilege,'" Inclusive Communities training and other ways ASU incorporates DEI policies into campus life.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 6:05pm on March 21, 2024, with new information from ASU on the lawsuit.

Edited by Walker Smith.

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Shane BrennanEditor-in-Chief

Shane Brennan is the Editor-in-Chief at The State Press. He was a sports and politics reporter, before becoming the editor of the politics desk. He has covered local and state politics for the Arizona Capitol Times and Cronkite News.

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