U. S. government probes Pitt over treatment of professor
The U. S. Education Department has opened a civil investigation into whether the University of Pittsburgh waged “a campaign of denunciation and cancellation” against an Asian faculty member whose scientific article advocated race- neutral admission.
Actions that an assistant secretary of education says prompted the move — all of which the university disputed Friday — involve what the agency said are potential violations of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act.
Dr. Norman Wang, associate professor of medicine, authored a peer- reviewed article in the Journal of the American Heart Association published in March that advocated race- neutral admissions and hiring in cardiology, according to an Education Department letter sent to Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.
The 13- page letter dated Oct. 7, sent by Robert King, assistant secretary with the department’s Office of Postsecondary Education, stated in part:
“Specifically, it appears Pitt’s senior officials removed Dr. Wang as program director of the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh
Medical Center (“UPMC”) on July 31, 2020, disparaged his scholarship, and subjected him to public vilification,” the letter stated.
It did so “solely because his academic paper concluded, inter alia, ‘ Ultimately, all who aspire to a profession in medicine and cardiology must be assessed as individuals on the basis of their personal merits, not their racial and ethnic identities.’”
Pitt officials on Friday confirmed they had received the letter and said they were looking forward to cooperating with the investigation. But they denied the allegations.
“The University of Pittsburgh did not take any adverse action against Dr. Wang and we are fully committed to advancing the value of academic freedom,” said a statement released by David Seldin, a Pitt spokesman. “We are also confident that our admissions and hiring policies and practices are fair and lawful. Nothing in the department’s letter provides a basis to call into question those policies and practices.”
Dr. Wang could not immediately be reached for comment Friday, and the Education Department in Washington, D. C ., had no comment.
Debate over race as a factor in admissions has raged among the political right and left for decades, and has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Trump administration agency’s letter to Mr. Gallagher said in part:
“... Dr. Wang may have been disparately treated because of his race ( Asian). That is, Pitt would not have acted against him for publishing an academic paper containing the same or similar arguments and empirical data if he were of a different race,” it said.
“... the department is concerned by Pitt’s official statements denouncing Dr. Wang’s empirical case for race- neutral admission and hiring because Pitt’s statements necessarily suggest it supports and engages in overtly race- based admission and hiring.”
Race- based admission and hiring could constitute systemic discrimination based on race, color or national origin in violation.