A University of North Texas professor is suing the school after it took action against him for publishing a series of articles rejecting 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 an academic journal he founded after he wrote and shared a series of papers that were deemed “racist” by students and faculty.
The university punished the 64-year-old Jackson after he organized a symposium that aired divergent opinions on a talk by City University of New York Hunter College professor Philip Ewell titled “The White Race Structure of Music Theory.”
In his speech, and in his work published after the speech, Ewell argued that music theory is “white” and raised the question of how he feels more uncomfortable as a black person than most professors of music theory in higher education.
Ewell also denounced the Galician-born Austrian and Jewish music theorist Heinrich Schenker, whose writings had an enormous impact on subsequent musical analysis, as “an ardent racist and German nationalist” and stated that “our white racial structure seeks to shield Schenker from unwanted criticism.”
Schenker, who died in 1935, was persecuted by the Nazis, with Ewell insisting that he was a racially infuriating racist.
Timothy Jackson, a professor of music at the University of North Texas, filed a lawsuit against the school for violating his First Amendment right to free speech after it removed him from a publication he founded.
Professor Philip Ewell complained that music theory was “white” and that there was not enough diversity in the field of music theory.
The actions of the University of North Texas stem from a November 2019 incident in which Philip Ewell, a professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, gave a speech titled “The White Racial Structure of Music Theory” at the Music Theory Society.
After Ewell’s essay was published, Jackson attempted to organize a symposium with the Journal of Schenker Studies, which he co-founded at UNT, and encouraged members of the Musical Society to provide responses to the essay.
These responses were published in July 2020 and generated mixed opinions both in favor of and against Ewell’s speech.
Jackson’s letter was adapted from Ewell’s article on several topics of discussion. He also defended Schenker as a victim of antisemitism, putting forward the argument that the composer was harassed 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 “do not grow up in homes where classical music is deeply valued and therefore lack the necessary experience.”
After the symposium became known to the general public, Ewell’s supporters began to put pressure on the UNT, calling on the school to fire Jackson, as well as at least 18 faculty members and several graduate students.
Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that the university issued a statement saying it had opened an official investigation into the professor’s journal and UNT Press.
UNT Vice-Chancellor Jennifer Cowley then informed Jackson that he must develop a new plan for how to respond to the commission’s report outlining problems with his actions. However, a week before his deadline, he learned that he had been expelled from the journal and that the university would half-fund his work and the Schenker Research Center.
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 Schenker analysis. Schenker’s views on race have come under scrutiny and criticism since the 2020 international anti-racism protests.
Jackson wrote the letter in response to Ewell’s allegations against Schenker, defending the 20th-century musical composer as he described him as a victim of Nazi anti-Semitism during World War II.
In the lawsuit, Jackson asks the school to publicly state that it violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. He filed a petition that the Board of Trustees could not take action against him and a claim for damages.
“Timothy Jackson’s goals were consistent from the beginning, and they were to express academic freedom without fear of retribution from those who disagree,” Michael Thad Allen, Jackson’s chief attorney, told Campus Reform.
“UNT failed to protect these rights and allowed this situation to progress, forcing Jackson to file this lawsuit.”
The University of North Texas said in a statement that federal court is “not the place” for “baseless allegations.”
“The Defendants have formally notified the Court of Appeals that we will be appealing the district court’s decision to dismiss our motion to dismiss,” a spokesman for the school said. ‘Doctor. Jackson’s faculty colleagues did not harm him in any way, and federal court is not the place to hear the plaintiff’s baseless allegations against them. In addition, neither the Board of Trustees nor the university has taken any adverse action against Dr. Jackson.”
The statement ended with the words: “We will take these matters to the Federal Court of Appeals. In the meantime, we have filed a motion asking the trial judge to stop all activities in the district court until the parties receive a decision on the appeal.”