On February 14th, 2022, the Faculty Council at the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) voted on a resolution “affirming the fundamental rights of academic freedom in its broadest sense, inclusive of research and teaching of race and gender theory.” The resolution received endorsements from the University Faculty Gender Equity Council, the Council for LGBTQ+ Access, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Council for Racial and Ethnic Equity and Diversity. It ultimately passed in a 41 to 5 vote.
While the resolution claims to support academic freedom in the “broadest sense,” its text makes clear the true intention behind the resolution: protecting teachers’ ability to indoctrinate students with radical racial ideologies. The UT-Austin Faculty Council drafted the resolution in response to a new Texas law prohibiting K-12 educators from teaching students radical ideas about race and gender. The prohibited doctrines include the idea that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” and that an individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” simply by virtue of the individual’s race or sex. According to the UT-Austin Faculty Council, restricting the dissemination of these ideas constitutes an unconscionable abridgement of academic freedom.
One of the five votes against the so-called academic freedom resolution came from National Association of Scholars Affiliate Head and Associate Professor of Finance Richard Lowery. According to Dr. Lowery, the resolution undermines the very principles of academic freedom that it claims to support. In an interview with Fox News, Dr. Lowery explained:
[The UT-Austin faculty] have done so much to suppress what anyone else can say on campus and beyond…We have a policy now where all faculty for promotion and hiring are supposed to be expressing their support for diversity, equity, and inclusion as defined by the critical race theorist group. They want representation on all the hiring and promotion committees…And then as soon as anyone starts pushing back and saying, “no, we need to be free to do our thing, and you can’t impose your ideas on us,” then they get all worked up about academic freedom. And the hypocrisy really gets to me.
The promotion and hiring policy that Dr. Lowery referenced in the interview went into effect in April 2021 as part of UT-Austin’s “Strategic Plan for Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Among other things, the plan included blatant political litmus tests for hiring, promotion, and scholarship.
Given the university’s history, it is no wonder that Dr. Lowery recognized the Faculty Council’s sudden scramble to “protect academic freedom” as deeply hypocritical. He believes that the council’s goal is not to protect education, but to promote activism:
So many of the faculty view themselves as activists first and educators and researchers second and third at best. There is this mindset that we need to be bringing about this specific set of social changes dictated by this odd theory that they’ve built up, not provide education or look objectively at facts. This activist core drives so much of the university.
The University of Texas at Austin has been putting activism above education for years. Its sham resolution in support of its own definition of academic freedom does not erase the disservice done to UT-Austin students in the name of social change. The National Association of Scholars applauds Dr. Lowery for standing up for UT-Austin students and standing against the university’s hypocrisy.
Marina Ziemnick is a Communications Associate at the National Association of Scholars.