This is only a complaint at this stage (Lowery v. Mills (WD Tex.)), so these are just the plaintiff’s allegations, but he’s represented by folks at the Institute for Free Speech, whose work I’ve generally found pretty reliable. (I e-mailed UT on Thursday to see if they had a statement and so far have not received a response.) From the IFS announcement:
A finance professor is suing University of Texas at Austin (UT) officials who threatened to punish him for criticizing the university by threatening his job, cutting his salary and removing his affiliation with UT’s Salem Center.
In a complaint filed in federal court in Austin, Dr. Richard Lowry, an associate professor of finance at UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business, said officials at the state’s flagship university violated his constitutional right to criticize public officials. The suit also claims that the UT administration violated his right to academic freedom.
Professor Lowry is well known for his strong commentary on university affairs. His articles have been widely published, incl mountains, The Texas Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, and College Fix. He questioned the UT administration’s vision of critical-race theory, affirmative action, academic freedom, merit-based performance measures, and the future of capitalism.
A key target of Professor Lowery’s criticism was the UT administration’s use of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) requirements to filter qualified academics who dissented from DEI ideals.
Lowery’s lawyers wrote in the complaint that UT’s administration “responded with a campaign to silence Lowery.”
Carlos Carvalho, another UT McCombs School business professor who is part of the McCombs School, began the campaign by pressing the executive director of the Salem Center for Public Policy, an academic institute. Lowry is an associate director and senior scholar at the Salem Center and reports to Carvalho.
In the summer of 2022, Sheridan Titman, one of the UT officials named in the lawsuit, told Carvalho, “We need to do something about Richard.” According to the lawsuit,” he added that [UT] the president [Jay] Hartzell and Dean [Lillian] Mills was upset about Lowery’s political advocacy.” Titman wanted to know ‘can we ask him to secure it?'”
Carvalho perceived this as a threat from Lowery’s directed Titman, but initially refused to report it. Carvalho explained to Titman that the First Amendment protected Professor Lowery’s right to free speech.
Nevertheless, administrators increased the pressure on Carvalho and Lowery. When Carvalho again resisted the call to rule Lowery in his speech. Dean Mills, the lead defendant in the case, threatened to remove Carvalho from his position as executive director. “I need not remind you that you serve at my pleasure,” he said.
These were among the UT administration’s threats to Lowery’s “jobs, salaries, institute affiliations, research opportunities. [and] Academic Freedom.”
Some in the administration even “allowed, or at least rescinded, a UT employee’s request that police monitor Lowery’s speech, because he might be communicating with politicians or other influential people.” … As one employee wrote, while urging campus police to monitor his now-protected tweets, “We’re more concerned about the people he’s reaching than him. Some of his supporters are writers, podcasters and politicians.” Lowery’s tweets frequently tagged the governor and lieutenant governor of Texas, raising the concern of the UT administration.
In addition to silencing Lowery’s speech, UT’s actions also “effectively removed a significant portion of his job responsibilities” as a UT professor by restricting his academic freedom. Defendants deprived him of his right to critical ideas, policies, appointments, … and otherwise participate in the life of the mind and academic conversation on equal terms with his peers on the faculty.” …