The Texas A&M University System has been hit with a federal class-action suit accusing it of discriminating against Asian and white men in a new fellowship program focused on diversifying its faculty.
Richard Lowery, a finance professor at the University of Texas at Austin, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Saturday. He is represented by America First Legal, a nonprofit co-founded by Stephen Miller, who served as a policy adviser for former President Donald Trump, and Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general who helped write the state’s six-week abortion ban, as per the Texas Tribune.
In the suit, Lowery challenged Texas A&M’s Accountability, Climate, Equity and Scholarship Faculty Fellows Program (ACES), whose new “Plus” version seeks to hire faculty from “underrepresented minority groups” that exclude Asian Americans. The system is expected to allot $2 million for the program, providing “50% matching base salary and benefits, up to a maximum contribution of $100,000 (salary and fringe) for new mid-career and senior tenure-track hires.”
Lowery, who is white, alleges that ACES Plus violates Title VI and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibit sex and racial discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding. He also claims violations of Section 1981 (42 U.S.C. § 1981) and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
“These discriminatory, illegal, and anti-meritocratic practices have been egged on by woke ideologues who populate the so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at public and private universities throughout the United States,” the lawsuit states. “The existence of these offices is subverting meritocracy and encouraging wholesale violations of civil-rights laws throughout our nation’s university system.”
The Texas A&M University System includes 11 state-run universities and has a population of over 150,000 students, according to Reuters. The ACES Plus program, according to a memo cited in the suit, aims to build a faculty demographic consistent with the Texan population.
“Texas A&M is basically setting aside faculty positions for what they deemed to be underrepresented minority groups in an effort to make their faculty ‘look like the state of Texas,’ which is a goal that they cannot achieve without engaging in blatant racial discrimination. It’s egregious, it’s unlawful, and it cannot continue,” America First Legal Vice President and General Counsel Gene Hamilton told the Washington Examiner.
Lowery’s suit said he is “able and ready” to apply for a post in the system, but its policies prevent him “from competing with other applicants for these faculty positions on an equal basis.” In response, Laylan Copelin, Texas A&M’s vice chancellor of marketing and communications, said it is “unusual” for Lowery to make such claims when he has not applied after all.
“It’s an unusual job application when Mr. Lowery says in the lawsuit he is ‘able and ready’ to apply for a faculty appointment at Texas A&M. But our lawyers will review the lawsuit, confer with Texas A&M and take appropriate action as warranted,” Copelin said in a statement.
The ACES Plus program will be funded in the next two fiscal years. As of Fall 2021, about 60% of Texas A&M’s faculty was white; nearly 14% were international, about 10% were Asian or Pacific Islander, nearly 6% were Latino and below 4% were Black, according to The Dallas Morning News.