A Campus of Texas at Austin professor has filed a lawsuit against Texas A&M University, alleging that a new faculty fellowship programme aimed at increasing diversity at the flagship university in College Station discriminates against white and Asian male candidates.
On Saturday, Richard Lowery, a white finance professor at UT-Austin, filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Texas A&M University System and its board of regents, as well as Annie McGowan, Texas A&M’s vice president and associate provost for diversity, and N.K. Anand, Texas A&M’s vice president for faculty affairs.
Lowery is represented by America First Legal, a nonprofit founded by former President Donald Trump’s policy adviser Stephen Miller and Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general and the legal architect of the state’s six-week abortion ban.
Lowery claims in the lawsuit that the Accountability, Climate, Equity, and Scholarship Faculty Fellows Program, or ACES, announced this summer within Texas A&M’s faculty hiring programme violates Title VI and Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
While the ACES programme focuses on hiring recently graduated doctoral students who want to enter academia, the new ACES Plus Program focuses on “mid-career and senior tenure-track hires from underrepresented minority groups who contribute to moving our faculty’s structural composition towards parity with that of the State of Texas.” It will set aside $2 million over the next two fiscal years to assist in matching a fellow’s basic pay and benefits, up to a maximum of $100,000.
The university listed underrepresented groups as African Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians in its announcement of the new fellowship programme on July 8.
“Texas A&M’s professed goal of producing a faculty whose racial makeup achieves ‘parity with that of the state of Texas’ aspires to accomplish racial balance, which is patently unconstitutional under Title VI and the Supreme Court’s authoritative precedent,” the lawsuit claims.
Texas A&M is also accused of reserving faculty posts for “underrepresented” racial groups, according to the lawsuit. It refers to an email written in August by an unknown business professor to the chairman of the department of finance’s recruitment committee, Shane A. Johnson.
“I heard that one of our lines is designated for a ‘underrepresented minority.'” Is that right?” According to a copy presented as an exhibit in the complaint, the email read. “The underrepresented line would possibly be a third job, so certainly reserved, but not one of our’regular’ roles,” Johnson said later that day.
“Professor Lowery sues on behalf of a class of all white and Asian males who stand ‘able and ready’ to apply for faculty positions at Texas A&M,” according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, Texas A&M system spokesman Laylan Copelin termed the lawsuit a “unique job application” because Mr. Lowery claims in the complaint that he is “equipped and ready” to apply for a professor position at Texas A&M. However, our attorneys will analyse the litigation, consult with Texas A&M, and take necessary action as needed.”
According to Texas A&M statistics, there were 2,658 white faculty members for the fall 2021 semester, 180 black faculty members, and 335 Hispanic members.
The ACES Faculty Fellows Program, according to Texas A&M’s diversity strategy, “promotes the research, teaching, and scholarship of early career scholars who embrace the concept that diversity is an integral component of academic performance,” according to the website. “Through their experience at Texas A&M, fellows should gain a knowledge of the significance of diversity and inclusion, as well as the power it has to enhance the lives of students, professors, and staff.”
Texas A&M invites “women, minorities, and members of other underrepresented groups” to apply for the broader ACES programme and states that they would be aggressively pursued.
Lowery has worked at the University of Texas in Austin since 2009. He was one of the academics engaged in the formation of the Liberty Institute, a new think tank at the University of Texas in Austin. According to the UT-Austin website, the new Civitas Institute focuses on programmes that “enable investigation into the essential concepts of a free and durable society: individual rights and civic virtue, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and free business and markets.”
Lowery’s attorneys are asking the court for declaratory and injunctive remedies on his behalf. They also want a court monitor appointed to oversee the diversity office and faculty recruiting at the institution.
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