State agency's DEI summit will feature doctor who claims Trump puts poor whites 'at ever-greater risk of sickness and death'

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is holding a three-day DEI conference with keynote speaker Dr. Jonathan Metzl, author of 'Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland.'

Another keynote speaker will be activist Heather McGhee, whose book, 'The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,' garnered praise from Ibram X. Kendi.

A Pennsylvania government agency will soon be hosting a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) conference at a public university with speakers whose careers deal extensively with concepts such as “intersectionality” and “whiteness.”

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has announced its 2023 DEI Summit: “The Power of Community: Uniting to Amplify Voices and Foster Well-Being.” 

Scheduled from Nov. 8-10 at Shippensburg University, the event supports PASSHE’s DEI priorities, such as: “Faculty, Staff, and Student Diversity,” “Equitable Student Outcomes,” “Inclusive Communities,” “Curriculum Diversity,” and “Enabling Infrastructure.”

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PASSHE is a state agency that operates a public university system of 10 Pennsylvania schools with approximately 85,000 students. Its latest total budget was about $2.2 billion.

Keynote speakers for the event include Dr. Conchita Hernandez Legorreta, Heather McGhee, and Dr. Jonathan Metzl.

A co-founder of the National Coalition for Latinx with Disabilities, Legorreta advocates for disabled students “through a lens of intersectionality focusing on social justice.”

In 2021, McGhee released a book titled, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, which anti-racist activist Ibram X. Kendi referred to as “the book I’ve been waiting for.” 

Dr. Metzl is the author of a 2019 work titled, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland. In the book, he argues that the policies of politicians like Donald Trump who appeal to middle-class and low-income white voters actually places them “at ever-greater risk of sickness and death.”

Dr. Metzl told Campus Reform, “Im [sic] a doctor who has spent years studying relationships between race, health, and illness … I am not a DEI expert or practitioner, that’s not what I do—some of my research has engaged critically with DEI as a framework.”

He continued, “But I’m happy to speak at any gathering where people are wanting to listen to research about health equity, and about how we can promote health and ease healthcare access for everyone. I don’t know much about this conference, but I was glad to get the invitation.”

Kevin Hensil, PASSHE Director of Media Relations, told Campus Reform that, “Pennsylvania is stronger when everyone on college and universities [sic] campuses feels welcome and they can thrive.”

“When all people in a campus community feel respected, students can do their best inside and outside the classroom and continue on their path to graduation,” he added.

When asked by Campus Reform about the source of funding for the DEI summit, no officials from the state agency provided a direct answer.

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In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, PASSHE allocated $2.5 million to DEI causes. This came from $50 million provided by Pennsylvania’s Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds.

Tickets for the DEI summit are free of charge for students and PASSHE employees. General admission is $75 for virtual attendance and $300 for in-person attendance.

Campus Reform contacted Shippensburg University, all keynote speakers listed, and additional PASSHE officials for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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