A former Penn State professor has filed a lawsuit against the University, accusing it of discrimination, infringing on his free speech, and fostering a racially hostile environment.
Dr. Zack De Piero, a professor in the English department who was employed at Penn State‘s Abington campus from 2018 to 2020, filed a suit against the university this month, alleging that he was treated unjustly due to his skin color. He claims that white professors at the school were mistreated and subjected to racial slurs, while students of color were sometimes excused from meeting academic expectations.
The lawsuit further alleges that De Piero was asked to watch a video titled “White Teachers Are a Problem“ and was told to attend anti–racist workshops in order to “get it.” Dr. De Piero says he was also effectively censured for criticizing a racially charged presentation, and that a complaint of bullying was filed against him for doing so.
Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, the organization representing Dr. De Piero, stated that his rights were violated due to the University‘s “institutional intolerance” of white faculty members.
“The institutional intolerance that has become so prevalent in the academic space is extremely concerning to us,” commented their legal advocacy managing director, Leigh Ann O‘Neill. “We want to champion someone like Zack, as he has taken the brave and courageous step to stand up for his rights.”
Penn State released a statement in response to the lawsuit, affirming their “active and ongoing commitment to diversity and equity” and calling their campus environment “inclusive and respectful.”
Dr. De Piero, who now works at Northampton Community College, said he was left with no choice but to resign from Penn State Abington in order to escape the hostile environment. He is suing for unspecified damages.
The outcome of this case could have major implications for teachers and professors at institutions nationwide. As universities continue to grapple with diversity and racial justice issues, they should be mindful of the rights of their faculty members, especially those who dissent from their official stances. Protecting free speech should remain a top priority in all educational environments.