Wednesday 28 June 2023

Professor Says College Official Told Him ‘There Is A Problem With The White Race,’ Files Lawsuit

 A former Pennsylvania State University at Abington professor has filed suit against his former employer, saying that he was discriminated against because he is white and the school violated his free speech when he spoke out against the school’s “race-based dogma and discrimination.”

The suit, first filed earlier this month, was brought by Zack De Piero, a professor who taught English at the school for about four years before he resigned in August 2022. In the lawsuit, lawyers from the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) outline several incidents that De Piero says shows the school targeted him because of his skin color. 

“When he complained about the continuous stream of racial insult directed at White faculty in the writing department, the director of the Affirmative Action Office told him that ‘There is a problem with the White race,’ that he should attend ‘antiracist’ workshops ‘until you get it,’ and that he might have mental health issues,” the lawsuit says. 

According to De Piero, he was told by university officials to excuse poor academic performance from black and Hispanic students in the name of “social justice” and “antiracism.” The lawsuit claims that he was asked to “penalize” the scores of certain students in order to “equalize outcomes on the basis of race.” 

De Piero and others were also told to watch racialized training videos with names like “White Teachers Are a Problem,” which suggested that all white people are complicit in white supremacy. 

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, De Piero says the racial activism at the school increased. Former Assistant Vice President for Education Equity Alina Wong appeared to encourage looting, according to the suit. “What we call looting, I think of as just getting what you’re due,” Wong reportedly said. 

FAIR legal advocacy managing director Leigh Ann O’Neill said the organization is representing De Piero because of the widespread “institutional intolerance” at American universities. 

“The institutional intolerance that has become so prevalent in the academic space is extremely concerning to us and, you know, we want to champion someone like Zack, who has taken the brave and courageous step to stand up for his rights — and that translates to honoring the rights of his students to engage with … and receive the benefits from a full academic experience,” she said. 


In a statement to InsideHigherEd, the university said it “has repeatedly affirmed its active and ongoing commitment to diversity and equity, and made clear its goal to create an inclusive and respectful environment in which to live, work and study.”

De Piero, now a professor at Northampton Community College, said he was hit with a bullying complaint after critiquing one of the racialized presentations. 

“Not only was Penn State deliberately indifferent to the racially hostile environment for De Piero, Penn State actively treated De Piero as the problem, suggesting mental health treatment and disciplining him for bullying when he dared to complain,” the lawsuit read. “As a result, De Piero’s only option to escape the hostile environment was to leave Penn State.”

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