U. S. gov­ern­ment probes Pitt over treat­ment of pro­fes­sor

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local News - By Bill Schack­ner

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.

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