Phi Beta Cons

Beyond Parody

Yesterday, Drudge linked to an item in the East Valley Tribune (an Arizona newspaper) about Arizona State student Ryan Visconti. Ryan is a resident assistant at ASU, and that means that he must attend comprehensive “diversity training.” This training — designed to foster tolerance, end bigotry, and defeat stereotypes — was intolerant, bigoted, and stereotypical. In fact, it was so extreme as to be almost beyond belief.  The following is from the East Valley Tribune’s first article on the controversy:

Arizona State University senior Ryan Visconti was told “his kind” wasn’t welcome — that he was an abomination and an unforgivable sinner. He pleaded to join the “church,” which was set up Jan. 10 as part of diversity training for ASU dormitory employees.   The role-play training took place Jan. 11, one week before the start of the spring semester. 
Assigned the identity of a gay Hispanic, Visconti’s persistence during the training got him nowhere. A woman with a Southern accent told him there was nothing he could do. She said he was going to hell, and that even Jesus said so in the Bible.   . . . .   The stations included booths for housing, banking, church, jail, transportation and employment.
At each stop, Visconti said he was given scripted responses based on his gay Hispanic identity. He was told he could be a landscaper and live in a ghetto apartment or be unemployed and homeless. Meanwhile, students assigned white identities were encouraged to be business executives.

So, let me get this straight: In the interests of fostering tolerance, university officials adopt an affected southern accent, role-play the worst stereotype of a redneck fundamentalist, and then lead the class to believe that religious objections to homosexual behavior are nothing but the hateful and bigoted responses of the illiterate South. It is difficult to conceive how this kind of crude anti-Christian official conduct comports with the state’s obligations of religious neutrality.   As a further demonstration of the university’s commitment to “tolerance,” it placed Ryan on “probation” exactly three days after the story broke. And what was one of the grounds for his probation? Refusal to attend “Safe Zone training session.” In other words, if an RA has the temerity to object to taxpayer-funded ideological and religious propaganda, he can expect to be punished.    It sure is good to see the university embracing dissent, opening the marketplace of ideas, and allowing students to “speak truth to power.”    (Full disclosure: The Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom represents Ryan).

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