FAIR is proud to support the lawsuit by Timothy Jackson against the University of North Texas over infringement of free speech rights and academic freedom.
In July 2020, Professor Jackson published a scholarly article responding to charges and accusations that classical music is fundamentally “racist.” The venue was the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, which Professor Jackson founded at the University and continued to lead. Professor Jackson’s perspective on classical music reflects Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the unified “human family,” rather than divisive tribal affiliations based on race or skin color, which are harmful to all.
Professor Jackson’s position on classical music was met with criticism rather than respectful debate on campus. In the end, Professor Jackson was punished for arguing that classical music is not systematically racist. A social-media mob pounced on Jackson as “racist,” and graduate students ginned up a petition to cancel both Jackson and the Journal. Almost all his colleagues at the University of North Texas signed on to the petition, some apparently without even reading it. The University’s Provost convened a special “ad hoc panel” to “investigate” Jackson.
For publishing his article, the University of North Texas condemned Jackson for “editorial misconduct” and Jackson’s department chair told him he had to leave the Journal. But what were his editorial crimes? Nothing more or less than exactly what editors at other journals did and still do on a routine basis at this same University of North Texas Press: they choose which articles will be published. In the interest of presenting both sides, the Journal published a spectrum of views in the same issue, including those antagonistic to the Journal and Professor Jackson. The difference here was that Professor Jackson’s article defended classical music from accusations of “white supremacy”—apparently an incorrect viewpoint at the time, according to the University.
Timothy Jackson sued to defend his academic freedom and constitutional right to free speech. In a preliminary ruling favoring Jackson, the court rejected arguments by the University that he should not be allowed to sue, that the University had done nothing wrong, and that the University could do whatever it liked with the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, including putting it “on ice,” as the Texas Attorney General argued. The judge’s decision rejected this argument; it is available for viewing here.
The University of North Texas has now appealed to the Fifth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in an effort to justify the cancellation of Timothy Jackson and his Journal. This case will set standards for academic freedom and freedom of speech in the realm of the arts and humanities, not only in the state of Texas but throughout the Fifth Circuit, and perhaps the whole U.S.
Among FAIR’s core values are freedom of both speech and academic expression. A liberal education requires exposure to multiple viewpoints sometimes at odds with each other. Without them, students are robbed of their own First Amendment right to hear varied perspectives. That is why FAIR is supporting Professor Jackson’s case, and we invite you to join us by making a monetary gift or contribution today. With your support, FAIR will be able to continue supporting Professor Jackson and others like him who are courageous in their convictions.
Professor Jackson is represented by FAIR Network Attorney Michael Allen, and Jonathan Mitchell.
Your tax-deductible donation will be used to support Timothy Jackson’s case and other FAIR legal work to advance civil rights and liberties.
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