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UNT Music Professor Sues School for Retaliation Over Accusations of Racism

A music professor at the University of North Texas, Timothy Jackson, filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming his constitutional rights were violated by the university.

UNT said it would remove Jackson from a position heading up a music theory journal, and defund that journal and the research center he directs. This came after a controversy over the summer in which graduate students and music faculty denounced Jackson and his publication on social media, claiming both were “platforming racist sentiments.” Students and staff called for school officials to investigate the Journal of Schenkerian Studies and to discipline or terminate anyone involved with its production.

Case background

A symposium published in the journal featured a collection of essays that rebutted a 2019 talk by Philip Ewell, a black music theorist who said that the 19th century music theorist Heinrich Schenker’s analysis was informed by his racism, and that Schenkerian Theory perpetuated “a white racial frame” for analyzing classical music.

Jackson invited prominent scholars of Schenker’s work to reflect on the talk and rebut it using their own research and expertise. Ewell had claimed that Schenker, who was a Jewish musician and theorist who had family members killed in the Holocaust, was unable to separate his own racism from his theories.

Students advocated for officials to dissolve the journal and discipline faculty involved, and staff called for an investigation into the editorial processes used for the journal. The Society for Music Theory also leveled criticism at the journal, saying there were “anti-Black statements and ad hominem attacks on” Ewell.

UNT administrators found in an interval review that the journal and editorial staff did not observe best practices for scholarly publication. But Jackson said the allegations of racism that came from the journal damaged his professional career and resulted in personal reputation damage.

For more information about steps you can take if you believe you’ve been a victim of workplace retaliation, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.

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