ASU course teaches students to do 'the inner work of anti-racism'

An introductory class at Arizona State University invited students to self-evaluate in order to do the work of "anti-racism."

The course description for the communications class mentions nothing of the sort.

An Arizona State University communications class offered students an assignment to do “the inner work of anti-racism” by studying “anti-racism” lectures and podcasts, according to a relative of the student. 

One assignment reads “For the next 7 days, you need to commit do [sic] at least one practice or idea around doing the inner work of anti-racism,” according to screenshots provided to Campus Reform. 

The aunt of one student in the class posted to social media about the assignments, saying, “My niece sent me this assignment that she is required to do at @ASU. She must explain how she is doing the ‘anti-racist’ work because it’s presumed she’s racist.” 

“How is this allowed in a communication class?” she added. “This has gone too far. This isn’t teaching. It’s political propaganda.”

Ian Derk, a graduate student of communications at ASU, is the instructor of this particular section, according to materials provided by the relative. The course description and syllabus for COM 100- Introduction to Human Communication, includes no mention of “anti-racism” material, and an ASU representative confirmed that the assignments are not a part of the standard COM 100 curriculum.

Although Derk declined to provide a comment to Campus Reform on the matter, an ASU spokesperson said, “The anti-racism unit in his course is an optional, elective unit. Students can choose other activities if they like. Students are allowed to select from various options to work on their communication skills.”

“This module helps you develop skills around anti-racism and anti-racism work,” the assignment description read. Drawing from the work of Ibram X. Kendi, the module was designed to help students “Understand specific meanings of terms like ‘racism and ‘anti-racism’” and “Build an attitude that works toward anti-racism.”

Students were tasked with watching a lecture titled “How to Be an Anti-Racist,” by Boston University Center for Anti-Racist Research Director Ibram X. Kendi, author of the bestselling book How to Be an Antiracist. After the lecture, students were instructed to submit a reflection answering the following questions, including, “Do you think of racism as mostly between people, or do you think of racism as something that comes from structures, policies, or ideas?”

Additionally, students were also asked to respond “true or false” to several statements, including statements like “Black people can’t, by definition, support racist policies or ideas” and “White people benefit at different levels from racism, and some of them would benefit more from anti-racist policies than racist policies.”

Several podcast episodes from Kate Hanley’s show ”How To Be A Better Person” were listed for students to choose from, including “ The Inner Work of Anti-Racism: It’s Time to Admit This Fundamental Truth (That Everyone Worries About),” “Being OK With Messing Up,”  Separating Personal Offense from Moral Offense,” and “Owning Your Own Education.”

ASU College Republicans President Joseph Pitts told Campus Reform, “We condemn the teaching of pseudo-scientific critical race theory as fact in public universities. We cannot perpetuate ideological propaganda over the truth.”

ASU Campus Republicans Vice President and a correspondent for Campus Reform, said, “College Republicans at ASU are steadfast in their commitment to justice and equality. However, we adamantly oppose any form of critical race theory being taught in our workplaces and institutions of higher education. Critical race theory is a distortion of reality being taught as fact that serves a specific political agenda and does nothing to heal our divides. We can do better.”

ASU student Bennett Gallery told Campus Reform that “it’s unfair how this quiz is in a Human Communication course…” “[T]he whole point of that course is to learn about how humans communicate with each other,” Gallery said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have this kind of quiz in this course.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @w_eich1