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‘Progressive Politics 101’: ASU Forces Students to Learn About ‘Microaggressions’ & ‘Privilege’

March 18, 2024

Avoiding “microaggressions.” Checking your “cisgender privilege.” Developing a marketing campaign for a hypothetical popstar who uses “they/them” pronouns.

It’s all mandatory at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, a new Goldwater Institute report reveals. This government-run institution is requiring its students to invest their time and tuition dollars into learning the nuances of progressive identity politics as part of a “Diversity and Civility at Cronkite” course, according to the report, which is based on course materials obtained via public records requests.

Those materials include the following:

  • Course readings define statements such as “America is a melting pot” as examples of offensive “microaggressions.” Other statements—such as “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” or “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough”—are likewise branded as problematic because they imply that “people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.’”
  • Other course readings argue that objecting to men using women’s bathrooms is an example of discrimination against transgender individuals.
  • Course assignments include requiring students to develop a public relations plan for a hypothetical pop star who uses “they/them” pronouns.

More than 400 students were required to take this class in the Fall 2023 semester alone, with more than 2,000 hours of class time spent on what may as well be called Trendy Topics in Progressive Politics 101. The Cronkite School is supposed to be one of the country’s preeminent training grounds for journalists; instead it’s forcing cultural and political indoctrination down students’ throats.

And it goes beyond just the Cronkite school. Goldwater has identified more than 100 classes offered in ASU’s Spring 2024 course catalog that include terms like “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion,” or that fulfill the university’s general education requirement in “diversity.” How many of these courses are preaching progressive dogmas to a captive audience of students who must submit to this instruction just to graduate?

To return Arizona’s public universities to their educational missions, it is imperative that the institutions themselves—or the bodies that oversee them—adopt a change in policy to eliminate politicized “diversity”-based course requirements like Diversity and Civility at Cronkite.

That’s why the Goldwater Institute’s Freedom from Indoctrination Act prohibits public universities from requiring student to take courses that promote politicized “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) concepts like “microaggressions” and “cisgender privilege” as general education or major-specific requirements. Under this law, public universities, including ASU, cannot force students into DEI courses by failing to provide enough seats in other courses to fulfill university and major requirements. And the law also ensures true academic freedom by preventing these taxpayer-funded institutions of higher learning from requiring faculty to include DEI content in their courses.

No public university should require students to sit through lectures on the latest fads in progressive politics as a condition of obtaining a degree—especially not a public university that charges students over $10,000 per year. The Freedom from Indoctrination Act would stop universities from substituting trendy fads in identity politics for what should be their core educational purpose: the pursuit of truth through the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

Timothy K. Minella is a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy. 



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