The University of Pittsburgh, a Pennsylvania institution heavily backed by taxpayer dollars and with an endowment of $4.17 billion, is hosting a critical race theory (CRT) conference open to the public in late July, while concealing its financial contributions thanks to an uncommon state open records law.
“This year’s forum sessions and workshops will engage and equip participants with the knowledge, skills and resources to identify sources of systemic oppression, consider strategies for dismantling that oppression, and identify actions critical in fostering more equitable and just communities in which to live, work and learn,” the school states on its website.
America, The ‘Racist’
The event, which is called the “Diversity Forum” and has the subtitle “Dismantling Oppressive Systems: Building Just Communities,” will run from July 26 to 29. It will occur over Zoom and is being hosted by the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Listed speakers are prominent CRT activists and writers. This includes, in part:
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Board President Deborah Archer
- Dr. Keisha Blain, author of “Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom” and “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” edited with Ibram X. Kendi
- Dr. Jules Gill-Peterson, author of “Histories of the Transgender Child”
- Russell Jeung, co-founder of the affirmative-action group Stop AAPI Hate
- Dr. Anneliese Singh, Tulane University professor and chief diversity officer, award-winning author of “The Racial Healing Handbook and the Queer and Trans Resilience Workbook”
- Jacqueline Patterson, senior director of the “anti-racist” NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program
“Structures of Inequity: A Conversation on Social Justice,” is the event that will kick off the Diversity Forum. It “will explore how institutions of law and justice continue to paradoxically be instruments for both reification and dismantling of oppressive systems in the United States, and what the next frontier of action and advocacy must look like to advance social justice efforts.”
On the following day, the program runs from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Blain will lecture on “Bitter Fruit: The Poison of America’s Racism,” followed by dozens of CRT workshops throughout the day. Some of the more outlandish workshops on Wednesday include:
- “Combatting Oppression in Transracial Adoption,” hosted by Marianne Novy, Lori Delale-O’Connor, Jerry Dickinson, Christina Newhall
- “Making Antiracism a Daily Practice,” hosted by Kirsten Ivey-Colston and Lynn Turner
- “#DisabledGirlSummer,” hosted by Heather Tomko
- “Dismantling Oppressive Psyches & Related Symptoms,” hosted by Dr. Amy S. Walker
- “The Butterfly Effect and Reflecting on White Supremacy,” hosted by Julia Le, BhuvithaChagantipati, Ivy Chang, Selam Mekbeb-Gillett, Alexa Pierce, Aditi Sridhar, Yitian Wang
- “The Hidden Messages of Microaggressions,” hosted by Ahmed Ghuman and Emiola Jay Oriola
‘Racial Equity Consciousness’
James A. Lindsay, the founder of New Discourses and who has studied CRT for years, told The Federalist all of these trainings are aimed at normalizing such dogma.
“They’re all meant to keep pushing the envelope further, to get people to see oppression in everything, always, and to use that as an excuse to empower themselves,” Lindsay said. “The ones that jump out at me are the trainings about making ‘antiracism’ a daily practice, which is obviously a religious thing, and the one about ‘dismantling oppressive psyches and related symptoms,’ which psychologizes belonging to an ‘oppressive’ category and treats not taking up their worldview as a mental illness. The latter is something the Soviets did too.”
Thursday’s workshops hum to the same tune. There are sessions on “environmental racism,” “white privilege,” and “understanding one’s whiteness,” and an event titled, “The DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] Lifecycle: Creating Sustainable Change Within Organizations.”
Lecturers include the individuals above—some of whom are professors—as well as dozens of other instructors. There is also a “Pre Forum Institute” scheduled on Monday and Tuesday, which will run the general public $149 a ticket. It is a further study of “systemic racial inequity,” and the university’s website includes two figures that form the basis for the training.
Both focus on “racial equity consciousness,” and are underscored by the Marxist idea of “false consciousness.” False consciousness was a major philosophy developed in the Frankfurt School. It holds that the supposedly oppressed individual often does not accurately perceive his societal position and must be taught to recognize inequality and exploitation.
There is also an “Art of Diversity Showcase” planned as part of the forum—a social justice initiative to promote “pieces that expand diversity consciousness and embrace and celebrate minoritized cultures and perspectives.”
Awards range from $250 to $500 for the showcase. Some of the work submitted last year include a poem on refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag, a sketched university logo in Pro-Palestine colors, a Malcolm X drawing, and a Black Lives Matter drawing “created to embody the spirit of many of the protest signs used at demonstrations all across America.”
Vetting Speakers For Left-Wing Ideology?
Things get worse. Over email, university spokesman David Seldin claimed, “The event will address a broad range of topics of interest to the community, from a variety of perspectives.” However, when asked whether any right-leaning perspectives would be included in the forum, Seldin deflected. He essentially admitted the school is vetting participants based on ideology, given that there are only leftists involved.
“We do ask individuals to identify political perspectives or affiliation,” Seldin said in response to a question about why the event features only those with far-leftist views.
This is not out of character for the taxpayer-funded institution at all. In October 2020, Pitt joined 19 schools for a three-year program focused on affirmative action. The university announced the hiring of its director of faculty diversity and development, Lorie Johnson-Osho, in December 2020.
Upon the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in April, the administration sent an email to faculty and students claiming we must have an “honest reckoning with the systemic racism that divides our country” in order “to work toward a future where equity” is the “expectation.”
Freshmen students are now mandated to take a course called “Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance” that “seeks to examine the development, spread, and articulations of anti-black racism in the United States and around the world” and analyze “intersectional analysis.”
It is no wonder no conservatives or even moderates are not speaking at the forum. The entire university is intended to be an echo chamber.
Update: Seldin contacted The Federalist after publication and claimed his email regarding ideology contained a typo. “To be clear, political leaning was not considered in the selection of workshops,” he wrote.
Cash Under The Table Made Legal
The Federalist also contacted the University of Pittsburgh to understand how much money it is allocating toward the forum, and a school attorney followed up to deny the request.
Seldin wrote in an email that the event “is not funded either by the University’s state appropriation” or “by federal grants that support specific research and other initiatives,” but declined to note exactly what the financial source is. The university also declined to comment on how much speakers are being paid. And the university is within its legal rights in not disclosing its use of resources, including its taxpayer-provided campus.
In 2008, the state passed a Right-to-Know Law that exempts four “state-related” universities from fulfilling public records requests: Lincoln University, Penn State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh. This has been affirmed in the court cases Mooney v. Board of Trustees at Temple University (1972) and Roy v. Pennsylvania State University (1990).
“State-related” is a term Pennsylvania applied to these four institutions because they are not unequivocally backed by taxpayer dollars, even though significantly so. Notably, the University of Pittsburgh received a multi-year $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that culminated in experimental testing on aborted babies obtained from Planned Parenthood.
Tuan Samahon, a law professor at Villanova University, told The Federalist one could call the law “transparency for thee, but not for me,” since other state schools in Pennsylvania are required to comply with public records requests.
“Pennsylvania traditionally holds one of the worst reputations in the country for transparency and openness,” Samahon said. “In recent years, both Pennsylvania and Delaware have considered amendments to eliminate the official secrecy shrouding these universities. In my opinion, those changes can’t come soon enough.”
Samahon also indicated that it is unclear how the law comports with the U.S. Constitution.
“The exemption for state-related universities is curious,” he said. “Courts have long treated these state-related institutions as state governmental actors bound by the Fourteenth Amendment and its guarantees. It would be common sense for a state transparency statute, whose general purpose is accountability, to extend at least as far as the U.S. Constitution. Right now, the deal is one-sided: taxpayer subsidization but without transparency to the taxpayer. Transparency enables proactive accountability. Without it, we have to wait until a whistleblower blows the whistle or a major scandal erupts to reactively address it.”
‘Improve Systemic Equity’
Paul Kengor, a University of Pittsburgh alum, author, and political science professor at Grove City College, described his alarm at what is happening at his alma mater.
“As a proud Pitt alum who writes and brags about my alma mater, I’m alarmed at what’s happening there in the name of ‘diversity.’ I was shocked to hear about the mandatory course advocating critical race theory for incoming freshmen, which prompted one source to list my alma mater the fifth ‘most racist’ university in America,” Kengor told The Federalist.
“It’s stunning how much Pitt has changed,” he added. “I was a pre-med major. I went there because of the pioneering work in organ transplantation. But given what’s happening there today with gen. ed. courses, the curriculum, and the radicalized ‘diversity’ campaigns, I’d be left no choice but to choose another college. That’s a sad shift in my thinking. I had vigorously promoted Pitt for over 30 years.”
Diversity and Multi-Cultural Program Manager Ron Idoko did not return a request for comment. In a press release put out by the school, it says, “The theme of the forum is in line with Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s calls for more action to improve systemic equity at Pitt.”