Texas professor sues university for violating right to free speech

A University of North Texas professor is suing the school after it took action against him for publishing a series of articles dismissing the idea that music theory is a product of white supremacy.

The lawsuit alleges that the University of North Texas violated Timothy Jackson’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by removing him from the academic journal he co-created after he wrote and shared a series of books that students and professors have deemed it “racist”.

The university punished Jackson, 64, after he organized a symposium that raised various opinions on a speech by Professor Philip Ewell of Hunter College at the City University of New York, titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame”.

In his speech and in his work published after the speech, Ewell argued that music theory is “white” and pointed out how uncomfortable he feels as a black man that most professors in music theory in higher education institutions.

Ewell also condemned Austrian music theorist and Galician-Jewish Heinrich Schenker – whose writings had a profound influence on later musical analysis – as “an ardent racist and German nationalist” and asserted that ” our white racial framework seeks to shield Schenker from unwanted attacks.” critical.’

Schenker, who died in 1935, suffered persecution from the Nazis, with Ewell’s insistence that he was a racist sparking fury.

Timothy Jackson, a music professor at the University of North Texas, has sued the school for violating his First Amendment right to free speech after it removed him from a post that he founded.

Professor Philip Ewell has complained that music theory is 'white' and that there is not enough diversity in the field of music theory

Professor Philip Ewell has complained that music theory is ‘white’ and that there is not enough diversity in the field of music theory

The University of North Texas action stems from a November 2019 incident in which Philip Ewell, a professor at Hunter College at the City University of New York, gave a speech titled

The University of North Texas action stems from a November 2019 incident in which Philip Ewell, a professor at Hunter College at the City University of New York, gave a speech titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame.” at the Society for Music Theory.

After the publication of Ewell’s essay, Jackson sought to organize a symposium with the Journal of Schenkerian Studies which he co-founded at UNT and called on members of the Society for Music to offer responses to the test.

These responses were published in July 2020 and raised different opinions, both in favor and in disapproval of Ewell’s speech.

Jackson’s letter was adapted from Ewell’s article on several talking points. He also defended Schenker as a victim of anti-Semitism by raising the argument that the composer had been oppressed for being Jewish while living in Nazi Germany.

Jackson also dismissed claims that the field of music theory is racist and offered to explain that African-American women and men generally don’t “grow up in homes where classical music is deeply valued and they therefore lack the necessary background”.

After the symposium was made public, Ewell supporters began to pressure UNT, calling on the school to fire Jackson, along with at least 18 faculty members and several graduate students.

Jackson’s lawsuit alleges the university released a statement, saying it has opened a formal investigation into the professor’s journal and UNT Press.

Jackson was later briefed by UNT Provost Jennifer Cowley to come up with a new plan on how to deal with a report from an ad hoc panel outlining issues with his actions. However, a week before the deadline given to him, he discovered that he had been removed from the journal and that the university would cut all funding for his work and the Center for Schenkerian Studies in half.

Heinrich Schenker was a music theorist, music critic, teacher, pianist and composer.  He is best known for his approach to musical analysis, now commonly referred to as Schenkerian analysis.  Schenker's views on race have come under scrutiny and criticism following international anti-racism protests in 2020

Heinrich Schenker was a music theorist, music critic, teacher, pianist and composer. He is best known for his approach to musical analysis, now commonly referred to as Schenkerian analysis. Schenker’s views on race have come under scrutiny and criticism following international anti-racism protests in 2020

Jackson wrote a letter in response to Ewell's accusations of Schenker, defending the 20th-century music composer as he portrayed him as a victim of Nazi anti-Semitism during World War II.

Jackson wrote a letter in response to Ewell’s accusations of Schenker, defending the 20th-century music composer as he portrayed him as a victim of Nazi anti-Semitism during World War II.

In the lawsuit, Jackson is asking the school to publicly state that it violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He made a claim, asking that the Board of Regents be barred from action against him, and a claim for damages.

“Timothy Jackson’s goals have been consistent from the start, which is to express academic freedom without fear of reprisal from those who disagree,” Michael Thad Allen, Jackson’s lead attorney, told AFP. Campus Reform.

“UNT failed to protect those rights and allowed this situation to progress, forcing Jackson to file a lawsuit.”

In a statement, the University of North Texas said federal court was “not the place” for “baseless allegations.”

“The defendants have formally notified the Court of Appeals that we are appealing the District Court’s decision to deny our motion to dismiss,” a school spokesperson said. ‘dr. Jackson’s faculty colleagues did him no harm, and federal court is not the place to try plaintiff’s baseless allegations against them. Moreover, neither the Board of Regents nor the university took any adverse action against Dr. Jackson.

The statement ended with: “We will raise these issues in the federal appeals court. In the meantime, we have filed a motion asking the trial judge to halt all activity in the district court until the parties receive a decision on the appeal.

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