“Professor Sues University of Texas for First Amendment Violations”

This is just an objection at this stage (Lowery v. Mills (WD Tex.)), so these are just the plaintiff’s allegations, but he’s represented by the folks at the Free Speech Institute, whose work I’ve generally found pretty reliable. (I emailed UT on Thursday to ask if they had a statement and so far have not heard back.) From the IFS announcement:

A finance professor is suing officials at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) who threatened to punish him for his criticism of the university by threatening his job, cutting his salary and removing his affiliation with UT’s Salem Center.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin, Dr. Richard Lowery, an associate professor of finance at UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business, said officials at the state’s flagship university violated his constitutional right to criticize government officials. The lawsuit also claims that the UT administration violated his right to academic freedom.

Professor Lowery is well known for his vigorous commentary on university affairs. His articles have appeared widely, including in Hill, the Texas Tribune, the Houston Chronicle and The College Fix. He questioned the UT administration’s approaches to critical race theory, affirmative action, academic freedom, competency-based performance measures and the future of capitalism.

One of the key targets of criticism of prof. Lowery’s case was the UT administration’s use of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) requirements to filter out competent academics who disagreed with DEI’s ideology.

Lowery’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit that the UT administration “responded with a campaign to silence Lowery.”

The campaign began by lobbying Carlos Carvalho, another business professor at the UT McCombs School who is also the executive director of the Salem Center for Public Policy, an academic institute that is part of the McCombs School. Lowery is associate director and senior scientist at the Salem Center and reports to Carvalho.

In the summer of 2022, Sheridan Titman, one of the senior UT officials named in the lawsuit, told Carvalho, “We have to do something about Richard.” According to the lawsuit, “he added that [UT] president [Jay] Hartzell and Dean [Lillian] Mills was disturbed by Lowery’s political advocacy.” Titman wanted to know “can we ask him to tone it down?”

Carvalho took this as a threat from Titman, addressed to Lowery, but initially refused to pass it on. Carvalho explained to Titman that the First Amendment protects the right of prof. Lowery for expression.

Despite this, the administrators increased the pressure on Carvalho and Lowery. When Carvalho again resisted calls to discipline Lowery for his speech. Dean Mills, the main defendant in the lawsuit, threatened to remove Carvalho as CEO. “I don’t need to remind you to serve at my pleasure,” she said.

These were among the UT administration’s threats to Lowery’s “job, salary, affiliation with the institute, research opportunities, [and] academic freedom.”

Some in the administration even “allowed, or at least did not withdraw, a UT employee’s request that police monitor Lowery’s speech, because he might contact politicians or other influential people.” … As one staffer wrote, urging campus police to monitor his now-protected tweets, “we’re more concerned about the people he’s reaching than he is. Some of his supporters are authors, podcasters and politicians.” Lowery’s tweets frequently tagged the Texas governor and lieutenant governor, further worrying the UT administration.

In addition to Lowery’s chilling speech, UT’s actions also “effectively removed an important part of his job duties by limiting” his academic freedom as a UT professor. The defendants deprived him of his right to criticize ideas, politics, employment, … and to otherwise participate in the life of the mind and academic dialogue on equal terms with his colleagues at the university.” …

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *