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A University of Texas at Austin professor has sued Texas A&M University claiming a new faculty fellowship program designed to increase diversity at the flagship university in College Station discriminates against white and Asian male candidates.
Richard Lowery, a finance professor at UT-Austin who is white, filed the federal class-action lawsuit on Saturday against the Texas A&M University System and its board of regents, 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 group created by Stephen Miller, a policy advisor for former President Donald Trump, and Jonathan Mitchell, a former solicitor general for Texas and the legal architect of Texas’ six-week abortion ban.
In the lawsuit, Lowery claims that a new fellowship program announced this summer within Texas A&M’s faculty hiring program called the Accountability, Climate, Equity and Scholarship Faculty Fellows program, or ACES, 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 program focuses on hiring recently graduated PhD students who want to enter academia, the new ACES Plus Program focuses on “mid-career and senior tenure-track hires from underrepresented minority groups, that contribute to moving the structural composition of our faculty towards parity with that of the State of Texas.” It sets aside $2 million over the next two fiscal years to help match a fellow’s base salary and benefits, up to a maximum of $100,000.
According to Texas A&M’s announcement this summer, the university identified under-represented minority groups as African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
“Texas A&M’s proclaimed goal of establishing a faculty whose racial composition attains “parity with that of the state of Texas” seeks to achieve racial balancing, which is flatly illegal under Title VI and the binding precedent of the Supreme Court,” the lawsuit argues. “Professor Lowery sues on behalf of a class of all white and Asian men who stand “able and ready” to apply for faculty appointments at Texas A&M.”
In a statement, Texas A&M system spokesperson Laylan Copelin called the lawsuit an “unusual job application when Mr. Lowery says in the lawsuit he is ‘able and ready’ to apply for a faculty appointment at Texas A&M. But our lawyers will review the lawsuit, confer with Texas A&M and take appropriate action as warranted.”
On its webpage for the larger ACES program, Texas A&M encourages “women, minorities, and members of other underrepresented groups” to apply and says they will be actively sought.
According to Texas A&M’s diversity plan, ACES Faculty Fellows Program promotes the research, teaching, and scholarship of early career scholars who embrace the belief that diversity is an indispensable component of academic excellence,” the website reads. “From this experience at Texas A&M, fellows should develop an understanding of the value of diversity and inclusion and the power that it holds for students, faculty, and staff to enrich their lives.”
During the fall 2021 semester, there were 2,658 white faculty members compared to 180 black faculty members and 335 Hispanic members, according to Texas A&M’s data.
The plaintiff’s lawyers are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from the court on behalf of Lowery. They also want a court monitor appointed to oversee the university’s diversity office and faculty hiring.
Disclosure: Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University System and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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