"Professor Sues University of Texas for First Amendment Violations"

“Professor Sues University of Texas for First Amendment Violations”

This is just a complaint at this point (Lowery vs. Mills (WD Tex.)), so these are just the plaintiff’s allegations, but he is represented by the folks at the Institute for Free Speech, whose work I’ve generally found quite reliable. (I emailed UT on Thursday asking if they had a statement and so far have received no response.) IFS announcement:

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

In a complaint filed in federal court in Austin, Dr. Richard Lowery, an associate professor of finance at the McCombs School of Business at UT-Austin, 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 been widely published, notably in The hill, THE Texas Grandstand, 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 main targets of Professor Lowery’s criticism was the UT administration’s use of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) requirements to screen out qualified scholars who disagree. with DEI ideology.

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

The campaign began by lobbying Carlos Carvalho, another UT McCombs School business professor who is also 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 Fellow at the Salem Center and reports to Carvalho.

In the summer of 2022, Sheridan Titman, one of the top 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 upset with Lowery’s political advocacy.” Titman wanted to know if “we can ask him to tone it down?”

Carvalho understood this as a threat from Titman, directed at Lowery, but initially refused to pass it on. Carvalho explained to Titman that the First Amendment protected Professor Lowery’s right to speech.

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 from his position as executive director. “I don’t need to remind you that you serve my pleasure,” she said.

These were among the UT administration’s threats to “employment, salary, institute affiliation, research opportunities, [and] academic freedom. »

Some in the administration even “authorized, or at least did not withdraw, a UT employee’s request that police monitor Lowery’s speech because he might contact politicians or others. influential”. … As one employee wrote, urging campus police to monitor his now protected tweets, “We are more worried about the people he reaches than him. Some of his followers are authors, podcasters and politicians”. Lowery’s tweets often tagged the Texas governor and lieutenant governor, which added to the concerns of the UT administration.

In addition to chilling Lowery’s speech, UT’s actions also “effectively removed a significant portion of his duties by restricting” his academic freedom as a UT professor. The defendants deprived him of his right to criticize ideas, policies, hiring, … and to otherwise participate in the life of the mind and in academic dialogue on equal terms with those of his peers in the faculty. “…

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