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After being told that music theory wasn't racist, a Texas professor sued the university

Many students and faculty members called for him to be fired

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After being told that music theory wasn't racist, a Texas professor sued the university

After he challenged the notion that music theory was a function of White supremacy, a professor at the University of North Texas is now suing the school.

This lawsuit, the first by campus reform, asserts that Timothy Jackson's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was removed from the academic journal he cofounded after he published articles that were deemed racist by students and faculty.
After Jackson held a symposium encouraging differing opinions about a speech of Philip Ewell, Hunter College of New York professor of Music Theory's White Racial Frame, the university took legal action against him.

Ewell made the complaint in the speech and in the paper he published afterward that music theory was "White". He also claimed that he is uncomfortable with the fact that most music theory professors are White.

Ewell also criticised Heinrich Schenker, a late Jewish composer and music theorist, as an "ardent racist" and "a German nationalist". He claimed that Schenker's white race frame "shields him from unwelcome criticism."

Jackson had plans to host a symposium along with the Journal of Schenkerian Studies he co-founded at UNT. He invited members of the Society for Music and other musicians to submit papers in response to Ewell's paper. These submissions were published July 2020. They included a variety of views, both supportive and antagonistic to Ewell's speech.

Jackson's letter differed from Ewell on many points, while defending Schenker against antisemitism by noting that Schenker had been persecuted in Nazi Germany because he was Jewish.

Jackson dismissed the notion that music theory is racist, suggesting that African American women and men aren't likely to grow up in homes where classical music was deeply valued.

After the publication of the symposium, Ewell supporters began to call on UNT for Jackson's firing, which included at least 18 UNT faculty members, and several grad students.

Jackson claims that the school published a statement on July 31, 2020, indicating that it was initiating a formal investigation into Journal and UNT Press.
Jackson was then instructed by Jennifer Cowley, UNT Provost, to submit a plan for how to address a report of an ad hoc committee that highlighted problems with his actions. However, Jackson learned that he had been removed as a journal editor and that funding for the Center for Schenkerian Studies and the journal was being halted.

Jackson's lawsuit seeks several demands for judgement, including a declaration by the school that Jackson's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated, a request to stop the Board of Regents taking action against Jackson, and a demand for damages.

"Timothy Jackson has been consistent since the beginning. That is, to express academic freedom without fear from those who disagree," Michael Thad Allen (Jackson's lead attorney) told Campus Reform. Jackson filed this lawsuit because UNT failed to protect these rights, and allowed the situation to advance.

According to the University of North Texas, federal court is not the right place for "baseless claims."

A spokesperson for the school stated that the defendants had formally informed the court of appeals that they are appealing the decision of the district court to deny their motion to dismiss. "Dr. Jackson has not been harmed by his faculty colleagues, and the federal court is not the right place to hear the plaintiff's unfounded allegations against them," a spokesperson for the school said. Furthermore, Dr. Jackson has not been adversely affected by the University nor the Board of Regents. Jackson."

The statement also stated that "We will raise this point to the federal appels court." We have now filed a motion asking for the trial judge's suspension of all activities in the district court, until the appeal is decided by the parties.


 

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