Conservative groups turn to legal pressure to rein in DEI on college c…

A conservative
think tank
is threatening
Arizona State University
with legal action over its
diversity, equity, and inclusion
programs in the latest example of conservative backlash to DEI initiatives.

In a pair of letters to the leadership of
Arizona State University
, the Goldwater Institute said that the institution was illegally spending public dollars on faculty trainings that “present any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex” in violation of state law.


The training in question is the “ASU Inclusive Communities,” which is required for all faculty and staff. In a press release, the Goldwater Institute said the training contains “some of the most extreme DEI concepts.”

The institute said the training includes discussion on “how … white supremacy [is] normalized in society” as well as other concepts such as “white fragility” and “white privilege.” Additionally, staff who undergo the training are required to pass a test to certify their knowledge of the material presented.

John Riches, the Goldwater Institute’s vice president for litigation and general counsel, told the Washington Examiner in an interview that the institute is trying to pressure the university to comply with the statute and eliminate the requirements associated with the training. He added that the requirement of a test with right and wrong answers on DEI principles could be construed as a case of compelled speech.

A spokesperson for ASU told the Washington Examiner that the university believes it is complying with state law.

“The board of regents, which oversees ASU and the other two universities … [in] Arizona, I think they should also audit their faculty training to ensure that it complies with the law,” Riches said in the interview.

The Goldwater Institute’s efforts to shut down the staff trainings is just one of several efforts underway by conservative activist groups seeking to force schools to temper their DEI efforts. In August, pressure from the institute prompted Arizona’s public universities, including ASU, to drop a diversity statement requirement for faculty job applications. Another organization, Speech First, is currently seeking a Supreme Court review in a case challenging a bias response program and discriminatory harassment policies at Virginia Tech.


Riches, for his part, says he wonders why academic institutions are so focused on “ideological issues” instead of academic excellence.

“What we should strive for is equality, not for equity, which is discriminatory,” he said.