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Lawsuit: UT Austin professor says his First Amendment rights were violated

Richard Lowery's Twitter account has been private since August 2022 following the alleged threats from the defendants.

AUSTIN, Texas — A University of Texas at Austin professor has reportedly sued three faculty members in the McCombs School of Business, accusing them of violating his First Amendment rights.

In a report from KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman, Richard Lowery, an associate finance professor at UT, stated that his public criticism of UT led officials to threaten his job status and academic freedom. 

The criticism includes statements against the university's diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including calling the use of affirmative action for admissions "vile" and "racist." Also included in the lawsuit were comments characterizing UT's implementation of DEI grants as "the diversion of state resources to political advocacy" and the approach to using "critical-race theory indoctrination," the report states.

The lawsuit names three defendants: Lillian Mills, dean of the McCombs School of Business; Ethan Burris, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the McCombs School of Business; and Sheridan Titman, chair of the finance department at the McCombs School of Business. 

In addition to the comments regarding admissions, Lowery criticized how the Civitas Institute, formerly named the Liberty Institute, and the Global Sustainability Leadership Institute at the McCombs School of Business promote "left-wing activism" through the global sustainability minor. 

The report states that the Global Sustainability Leadership Institute has also been accused of training "activists to use corporations to promote DEI-based ideology" by Lowery. Lowery used his Twitter account to post some of the criticisms, in addition to tagging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott. 

The lawsuit further states that Mills, Burris and Titman responded to Lowery's statements by pressuring him and Carlos Carvalho, the executive director of the Salem Center for Policy, to censor Lowery's speech. In the suit, Burris allegedly told Carvalho that he might not approve Lowery's future appointment to the center due to his speech. Mills allegedly threatened to remove Carvalho from his position when he resisted calls to discipline Lowery for his speech, according to the report.

Lowery's Twitter account has been private since August 2022 following the alleged threats from the defendants, including curtailing some of his public speech critical of the UT administration.

Lowery is seeking attorneys' fees and for the court to prohibit any of the defendants from threatening him for speech, removing any job responsibilities or engaging in any other action that would stop him from using protected speech. 

Read the Statesman's full report.

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