Michigan State gives DEI award to public health prof who called racism 'the role of government'

Michigan State University hosted its 2023-24 Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards to thank community members for their commitments to DEI.

Recipients included College of Human Medicine Assistant Professor Kent Key, who has charged that government and policing both have 'racist roots.'

A public university in East Lansing, Michigan recently held an awards ceremony to commemorate employees and students who have advanced progressive ideology in the name of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  

On Feb. 9, Michigan State University (MSU) held its 2023-24 Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards to recognize faculty, staff, and students whose work included a “Know Your Rights Day” to teach racial minorities how to “survive potentially dangerous situations with the police,” as well as celebrate a housing services team who helped create a “Gender-Inclusive Housing Program.” 

[RELATED: MSU awarding DEI scholarships for ‘inclusive excellence’]

“The Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards recognizes the exceptional and innovative contributions of students, staff and faculty in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion,” an MSU web page states. Recipients can receive up to $2,000 as a reward and must advance DEI in the areas of “Teaching,” “Research,” “Programming,” “Service,” “Community outreach,” and “Organizational change.”

One announced award winner was Kent Key, a “Health Disparities Researcher” and an assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health. Key was selected because of his push “to create community-driven solutions that advance health equity.”

“In 2020, [Key] authored a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis and led initiatives locally, regionally and nationally,” the awards page notes.

“Racism is the role of the government. It was built off it” Key reportedly said at the time. “The whole concept of police departments and all those things, if we follow the pathology of the history of some of these things, they all have racist undertones, or racist roots.”

The university also elected to award law students who held a “Know Your Rights Day” at a Detroit high school last April.  

The event was predicated on the belief that young Hispanic and black people in particular are targeted by police officers and are especially in need to learn their Fourth Amendment rights for eventual encounters with law enforcement. 

“It’s great to have students come in who know the law and can articulate it for them especially since [the] majority of our students are minorities who are discriminated against,” one Cass Tech High School teacher said of the MSU Law students who instructed her class last year.

“The event opens the door for reflective discussions about an ongoing national problem and provides a safe space to share systemic experiences of bias and trauma while encouraging young people to join in the national conversation of what to do about it,” MSU writes of the workshop. 

[RELATED: Prof who celebrated Queen’s death awarded federal grant to teach ‘Blackness in Latin America’]

The university’s Residence Education and Housing Services department also received recognition for its “anti-racist and anti-oppressive” work and efforts in recent years. This included its creation of the “Racial Equity Impact Analysis Team” in 2022, and a “Gender-Inclusive Housing” program that was deemed conducive to the development of the “Transgender Residential Experience” for fall 2024.

Campus Reform has contacted Michigan State University, as well as Kent Key, the MSU College of Law, and the MSU Residence Education and Housing Services department for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.