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AZ University Faculty Given Test on ‘Decolonization,’ Pressured to Support Racialized DEI

November 13, 2023

New findings reveal that faculty members of Arizona’s largest institution of public higher education, Arizona State University (ASU), have been coerced into taking a radical ideological exam under the guise of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) that demands adherence to politically extreme, racially divisive concepts.

The Goldwater Institute has obtained the test questions given to—and the “correct” answers expected of –university faculty as part of ASU’s “Inclusive Communities” training exam, which has been administered to faculty across the university.

Among the concepts that faculty have been tested on:

  • The importance of “decoloniz[ing] the university.”
  • The importance of “intersectionality”—defined explicitly in the exam as the invention of critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw.
  • The importance of “equity”—defined explicitly in the exam as “a system where unequal goods are redistributed to create systems, policies, laws, and social practices” that promote equality of outcomes.

Those outside the halls of higher education may be unfamiliar with some or all of such terms. Yet the “decolonization” movement, for instance, recently emerged prominently amid the October 7 terrorist attacks against the state of Israel, when organizations such as “Black Lives Matter (BLM) at School” announced that “Palestinians are reminding us that decolonization is not a metaphor or abstraction, but requires real, daily struggle.” Hours after the same terrorist attacks, Texas Tech University professor Jairo I. Fúnez-Flores likewise repeated, “Decolonization is not a metaphor,” adding, “Decolonization is about dreaming and fighting for a present and future free of occupied Indigenous territories. It’s about a Free Palestine.”

Fortunately, no such explicit approval of violence exists in the ASU exam, yet the underlying ideology of “decolonization” nonetheless fosters the very same intellectual environment found at these peer institutions—fomenting resentment toward those viewed as “occupiers.” Indeed, as part of a 1,000-member march through ASU’s campus on October 21—co-organized by the BLM Phoenix chapter—students and community members carried signs such as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free,” which Republican and Democratic members of Congress alike have condemned for serving as a “rallying cry for the destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people.”

Given the increasingly clear association between advocacy of “decolonization” and the acceptance of antisemitism and political violence, it is clear that Arizona’s public institutions should ensure zero association with—much less active endorsement of—the “decolonization” movement.

Yet instead, the ASU Inclusive Communities DEI exam has listed “Failure to decolonize university spaces” as among the primary shortcomings of the campus’ “diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging” (or DEIB) efforts thus far. As the exam has expected faculty to recite:

A leadership challenge related to DEIB is:

a. Creating an inclusive environment.
b. Unconscious manifestations of power and privilege
c. Feeling unempowered as a staff member
d. Failure to decolonize university spaces that are oppressive to historically minoritized communities

Correct Answer e. All of the above

As elsewhere, the proponents of decolonization at ASU seek to portray the term as one promoting “inclusiveness,” yet its focus on toppling structures deemed “oppressive” betrays the underlying ideology of division and hostility bred by decolonization. According to the exam:

To decolonize the university means:

a. To examine structures and policies that have been oppressive to or have inflicted harm on any community, group or culture.
b. To create platforms for historically marginalized voices to be heard and to contribute to policy change.
c. To create a climate inclusive to all peoples, cultures and communities.
d. All of the above

Arizona university leaders deserve credit for their words, including statements signed by ASU President Michael Crowand University of Arizona President Robert Robbins in support of Israel in the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist attacks. However, more important than public pronouncements to external audiences are the protocols quietly imposed on the university community by campus leaders when it comes to pushing decolonization and DEI.

The Goldwater Institute recently alerted the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR)—which oversees Arizona’s public universities—to the content associated with the newly revealed DEI training exams. Now, with the discovery of the actual tests forced upon faculty, it is essential that university leaders—namely the Board of Regents—take responsive action.

Already, ABOR stepped up this spring to eliminate the universities’ use of “diversity statements” in the faculty hiring process after a Goldwater Institute report documented the corrosive impact of these ideological screening mechanisms. It is similarly essential that ABOR also rein in the racially divisive practices pushed on current faculty under the banner of DEI within Arizona’s university system.

Indeed, ASU’s Inclusive Communities exam has pressured faculty to endorse the infusion of DEI into every corner of university life. As it has inquired of—and informed—faculty:

“Which of the following areas of the university should address DEIB?”

Correct Answer: DEIB should be part of every facet of the university [emphasis added].

Unfortunately, while perhaps innocuous-sounding on the surface, such DEI programming has been linked to worsening campus climates for minority students and—as with the now defunct diversity statements—creates an intellectual climate unwelcoming of intellectual diversity. Arizona’s Board of Regents should take action to protect students and faculty from such overbearing ideologies, including eliminating all mandates or pressure on students or faculty to engage in DEI programming, training, or coursework; reallocating funds currently being diverted toward race-based DEI programming rather than general student services; and prohibiting all race-based discrimination in hiring, employment, and campus operations. In fact, the Goldwater Institute has proposed laws to implement each of those three reforms, respectively: the Freedom From Indoctrination Act and Goldwater’s Abolish DEI Bureaucracy and Ending Race Based Discrimination in Hiring, Employment, and Operations reforms.

There is no question that Arizona’s universities should ensure that their students are rigorously evaluated on their mastery of course material. But to force ideological examination on faculty in support of politically charged DEI principles is antithetical to the mission and purpose of higher education. So, too, are any efforts to force these principles on students or faculty through other means, whether via intrusion into instructors’ course syllabi or DEI-based student course requirements. Fortunately, those ultimately in charge of Arizona’s universities have an opportunity, and a duty, to respond accordingly.



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