Obama-appointed federal judge issues warning over DEI, allows prof's suit against Penn State to move forward

A federal judge issued a warning to universities over their DEI efforts in the workplace.

A federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama gave a stern warning to universities over Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in the workplace and allowed a former Pennsylvania State University professor’s case to move forward.

Zack K. De Piero, a White English professor who was employed by Penn State, sued the university in June of 2023, alleging that he felt pressure from faculty to align with their political viewpoints after he was hired, according to the lawsuit.

In an opinion dated Jan. 11, United States district judge Wendy Beetlestone sent a warning to the State College, Pennsylvania institution against DEI in employment.

”When employers talk about race—any race, with a constant drumbeat of essentialist, deterministic, and negative language, they risk liability under federal law,” Beetlestone wrote.

[RELATED: Penn State English prof sues university for discriminating against him for being White]

More importantly, Beetlestone rejected Penn State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by De Piero.

Beetlestone noted that employee training on topics such as “white privilege,” “white fragility,” and “implicit bias” can have positive effects, but said, ”the way these conversations are carried out in the workplace matters.”

The lawsuit states that he was expected to teach “that the English language itself is ‘racist’ and, furthermore, that white supremacy exists in the teaching of writing of English.”

“As time went on, the ‘antiracist’ movement continued gaining more power and traction at Penn State Abington to the point of pretty much becoming entrenched in the centralized mission of the school,” De Piero told Campus Reform in a previous interview.

“After I raised important questions about it during various meetings, my personal relationships with Abington colleagues dwindled down to only a few people,” De Piero added.

[RELATED: CUNY cancels ‘Globalize the Intifada!’ panel at anti-racism conference: ‘Not a podium for protest’]

During a meeting over Zoom on June 5, 2020, according to the lawsuit, faculty members were guided through a breathing exercise when non-Black people of color and white individuals were asked to hold their breath in order to “feel the pain” of Black individuals.

The lawsuit also states that De Piero got several emails from higher-ups in 2020 to watch a video titled “White Teachers Are a Problem.”