Free Speech

Med School Professor Removed from Fellowship Director Post, Apparently for Publishing Anti-Affirmative-Action Journal Article

This happened at University of Pittsburgh, a public university.


Hans Bader (Liberty Unyielding) reports (though you should read the whole thing):

The University of Pittsburgh has removed a program director at its medical center because he published a scholarly, peer-reviewed white paper discussing the pitfalls of affirmative action for black and Hispanic students. This violated the First Amendment, which protects even harsh criticism of affirmative action. The white paper was gentle in its criticism of racial preferences, merely arguing that lowering admissions standards for minorities can harm their prospect of academic success by putting them in a university they are not prepared to handle. It did not advocate discrimination against any minority group….

To my knowledge, Prof. Wang has not been removed from his faculty position, only from the administrative post; but public universities are generally not allowed to do even that, given the First Amendment, at least absent serious evidence that it would likely materially disrupt the functioning of the university. And if engaging in substantive academic criticism of race-based affirmative action—a matter that is the subject of a longstanding and substantive debate in the country and in universities—is indeed seen as so disruptive, then something is badly wrong with the University of Pittsburgh.

(I should note that a university could rightly insist that its employees follow legally permissible university policies, including race-based affirmative action programs, whether or not they agree with them; and they could ask their employees for assurances that they would indeed follow such policies. But here, as I understand it, Prof. Wang was removed from the post simply for his public criticism of race-based affirmative action, and not for any statement saying that he wouldn't do his job.)

UPDATE: (1) Just to be clear, Pittsburgh is indeed a public university (and thus a "state actor") for purposes of applying the constitutional rules. (2) For an example of the First Amendment protections covering public employee speech about affirmative action, see Meyers v. City of Cincinnati (6th Cir. 1991) (later modified on other grounds) and Dep't of Corrections v. State Personnel Bd. (Cal. Ct. App. 1997).

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  1. It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations — and people like me get called names for advocating academic rigor in K-12. And that is the root of everything else — these kids are being cheated.

    Sadly, I’m not at all surprised by this — Affirmative Retribution has become unquestionable, facts be damned, and no one ever mentions the student who got Baake’s seat in med school. (CA revoked his med license for life.)

    1. Such “retribution” is pervasive, but illegal.

      Even administrators have some leeway to criticize affirmative action, even if their own employer practices it.

      In Meyers v. City of Cincinnati, the Sixth Circuit held that “[j]ust as an opinion concerning the general policy of affirmative action would be a matter of public concern, so too is speech concerning methods of implementing affirmative action.”  934 F.2d 726, 730 (6th Cir.1991), modified on other grounds, 979 F.2d 1154 (6th Cir.1992).   The plaintiff in Meyers held the title of “assistant fire chief in charge of personnel,” and he allegedly made statements which were “in direct contravention of city policy on affirmative action” to two employees of an organization the purpose of which was to assist minorities in competing for jobs.  Id. at 727.   The plaintiff claimed that his statements on affirmative action led to his constructive discharge.  Id. at 729.  The Sixth Circuit found that the plaintiff’s statements were protected under the First Amendment in that they addressed a matter of public concern, and were not sufficiently disruptive to justify punishing it.

      Much harsher criticism of affirmative action has been ruled protected speech by the courts. The California Department of Corrections attempted to fire prison guard John Wallace after he angrily denounced its affirmative action plan to the Hispanic female employee he perceived as benefiting from it. An appeals court, however, ruled that his criticism of the plan was protected speech, and barred his termination, in California Department of Corrections v. State Personnel Board, 59 Cal.App.4th 131 (1997).

      Rulings like that apply with even greater force to speech in universities. Universities have less power to police speech by their employees than prisons do, because prison guards are “paramilitary” employees who are subject to strict discipline, and university employees are not. See Jurgensen v. Fairfax County, 745 F.2d 868 (4th Cir. 1985).

    1. Isn’t that more anecdote than anything else? Is there some data showing that PoC (physicians of color) lose their licenses at a higher rate or flunk out more of med school?

      1. By the same definition, the death of George Floyd is an anecdote.

        1. And?

          Maybe I’m missing something. You’ll never get me to disagree with academic rigor, but if your point is that one doesn’t argue against affirmative action without fear of cancel culture SJWs, I am not disagreeing. I’m just saying using that one data point isn’t nothing but an anecdote.

          1. Fair enough — this is the piece I was looking for, and Jacoby’s point was that Chavis was being cited individually as the social benefit of Affirmative Retribution, and hence…


            1. Somewhat off topic, but I noticed this in Jacoby’s linked blog post about the patient that died:

              When Chavis performed her liposuction on June 22, her blood pressure plummeted, and she complained of difficulty breathing. “If you can talk, you can breathe,” Chavis reportedly told her.

              I have heard that line of reasoning somewhere before. Perhaps Dr. Chavis trained as a police officer also?

              (Trivia – Chavis was murdered in 2002 at the age of 50 by three people unsuccessfully attempting to carjack his Mercedes-Benz outside of a Foster’s Freeze in Hawthorne, CA.)

      2. I don’t know if there’s any data unique to medical schools but the very white paper that got the professor fired discussed data showing such abandonment rates in general university populations. I’m not aware of any reason to think that medical schools would see different results than everyone else.

        1. I suppose I should of followed the trail of links to the actual paper, which is not behind a paywall (some lack academic rigor on my part I suppose). The data cited in the paper seems to indicate this is a problem like the low passage of minorities with the bar exam.

          “A 2001 study of the University of Maryland School of Medicine detailed “massive” academic preferences at the time of admissions for blacks that translated into downstream difficulty.35 In 1998, first‐time US Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 takers had disparate failing rates: 7 of 27 (26%) for blacks; 1 of 5 (20%) for Hispanics; 0 of 33 (0%) for Asians; and 2 of 81 (2%) for whites. This occurred despite “unlimited hours for tutoring and other support which is perceived by the non‐minority student as ‘special treatment,’” including Kaplan preparatory courses, for blacks and Hispanics.”

          1. And then, in terms of Psychometrics, providing all prep assistance means that some of those who passed shouldn’t have.

        2. And I assume that everyone here knows that black JDs fail the bar at much higher rates, right? This is a well-known fact?

          1. And then there are some who never take the bar exam — they instead go into academia and tell everyone they graduated from law school, and except for people like me who check, everyone assumes that means that they are “a lawyer.”

            A lot of the people involved in the Kangaroo Kourt stuff are minority JDs, most also female….

      3. You can find a fair amount of research on the topic under the name “mismatch effect”. And from that research, you can draw the conclusion of a definite “maybe”.

        Like many controversial topics, there is research both for and against the idea, and frequently the same data is used to draw contradictory conclusions.
        Unfortunately, most research I’ve seen is based on college education, which distinctly limits its usefulness outside of that extremely restricted field.

  2. Lets let affirmative action medical students through as long as they only operate on the progs who supported these policies.

    1. How should we handle students who graduate from conservative-controlled schools that suppress science, teach nonsense, mock academic freedom, and deserve their fourth-tier status but not mainstream accreditation?

      1. Pray tell … where do you find such institutions?

      2. Very simple Kirkland.
        Let them pas the high stakes exams like everyone else.

        Now go cling on another dead tree.

      3. This is at least the third time he’s brought up the boogeyman of conservative controlled schools (the few you can count on one hand versus the 1,000 liberal ones) doing the same thing as supposed evidence of hypocrisy.

        Yet when pressed provide an specific example, he’s always silent or demonstratively wrong.

        Regardless if both sides do the same thing, we all know who does it more, you don’t hear the “conservative schools” in the news everyday, now do you?

        Aren’t the liberal ones supposed to be better than conservatives anyways in the virtuous search for truth? Suppression of inquiry is supposed to be conservative value right?

        Kirkland is just a generic troll who gets his sadistic jollies stirring people up and making them angry, he’s never a true debater who seeks to win the debate with logic.

        1. “Leftist”, not “liberal” — please!

          Small “l” “liberals” believe in Locke’s “Life, Liberty, & Property” and the values of the Western Christian Liberal Enlightenment.

          Kirkland, not so much…

          1. I don’t care for this one bit.

        2. “This is at least the third time he’s brought up the boogeyman of conservative controlled schools (the few you can count on one hand versus the 1,000 liberal ones) doing the same thing as supposed evidence of hypocrisy. Yet when pressed provide an specific example, he’s always silent or demonstratively wrong.”

          You must be new here, Joe. Customarily, I try to avoid performing basic research for clingers — How are they to learn anything otherwise? But here’s a head start for you:

          One hand: Regent, Liberty, Wheaton, Franciscan, Biola.
          Another hand: Hillsdale, Grove City, Ave Maria, Ozarks, Cedarville
          Baptist hand: Ouachita Baptist, Houston Baptist, Maranatha Baptist, Oklahoma Baptist, California Baptist
          Namely hand: Patrick Henry, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Oral Roberts, Bob Jones
          Christian hand: Colorado Christian, Oklahoma Christian, Ohio Christian, Pensacola Christian, Clearwater Christian
          Other Christian hand: Dallas Christian, Florida Christian, Christendom, Messiah
          Compass hand: Southeastern, Northeastern, Northwestern-St. Paul, Southwest Assemblies, North Greenville
          Short hand: Lee, King’s, Union, Crown, Dallas
          Another hand: Harding, Saint Vincent, Hampden-Sydney, Lancaster Bible, Olivet Nazarene
          And another hand: Anderson, Indiana Wesleyan, Wisconsin Lutheran, Cornerstone
          Yet another: Anderson, LeTournean, Saint Vincent, Union, Evangel
          And: Samford, Lancaster Bible, Asbury, New Hope, Covenant

          Enough hands for you, Joe 41 2?

          The reason most people — other than right-wing kooks — have not heard much of those schools is that they are lousy schools, with nondescript faculties, substandard students, undistinguished alumni, sketchy accreditation, and downscale academics.

          They tend to engage in strenuous censorship, suppress science to flatter superstition, warp history to promote dogma, mock academic freedom, impose speech codes, enforce old-timey conduct codes, and engage in viewpoint-based discrimination in everything from admissions and administration to hiring (professors to janitors, librarians to basketball coaches) and firing (infidels).

          Why not quit while you’re behind, Joe 41 2? If you enjoy getting schooled like this, though, by all means . . . keep going.

          1. That’s *maybe* 2%, and most of the ones you mention are so small that even I haven’t heard of them before. My guess is that most of them are very well respected in very narrow fields, which may well include training ministers.

            But how many thousand students in total are we talking about here?
            Compare that to the purgatorial cesspool known as UMass Amherst that itself has over 30,000 students.

            And UMass definitely “tend[s] tend to engage in strenuous censorship, suppress science to flatter superstition, warp history to promote dogma, mock academic freedom, impose speech codes, enforce old-timey conduct codes, and engage in viewpoint-based discrimination in everything from admissions and administration to hiring (professors to janitors, librarians to basketball coaches) and firing (infidels).”

            Remember the infamous “hockey stick” of the Global Warming hoax? Michael Mann was a UMass Postdoc at the time, even though he hadn’t yet technically earned his doctorate yet. He was working with Raymond Badley, a UM Professor — the UM GEO Dept was one of the three hubs of that pestilence worldwide.

            That’s suppressing science to flatter superstition, and they are enforcing En Loco Parentis on that campus. So, like I said, ZooMass tends to….

            1. Oh, and Kirkland, you neglected to mention Baylor.

              1. That list was not nearly exhaustive. It was the tip of the low-ranked, low-quality, bigoted, nonsense-teaching iceberg of conservative-controlled schools.

      4. Don’t licensing authorities and certifying organizations set and maintain standards of professional preparation and competence, thankfully without reference to race, gender, national origin, religion, creed, etc?

        What do you think of the story of Patrick Chavis that Dr. Ed, with whom I agree with only infrequently, cited? Discount or dismiss it as “anecdotal” if you will, but I thought it pretty chilling. (Maybe the real point that it made wasn’t about the individual’s minority status, but about his malignant sociopathy. In my, opinion the worst admission/graduation decision a medical school can make is to let a sociopath through with an MD diploma. Whatever institution(s) granted degrees to Trump, Peter Navaro, and the other R clowns pretending medical qualifications, should publicly apologize for what they did to enable them.)

        Now, my anecdotal contribution…We had a pharmacology professor who gave minority students in our class extra help by sharing exam questions with them in advance. I didn’t know that until years later, but in the meantime I did cross paths with the professor, when he showed up in legal cases I reviewed as a whore expert witness.

        1. There’s evem more to Chavis — in addition to the liposuction deaths, and being sued for malpractice some 27 times (OB *is* a high risk practice, but…) there was the 1988 incident.

          It was something about a forceps delivery that the hospital’s review board (MDs, I believe) didn’t like and it both “reprimanded” him and had hospital staffers monitor his work. He proceeded to sue for racism and got a $1.1M jury award that was subsequently reversed.

        2. Oh, and neurodoc, I’m not sure how much longer the medical board exams will remain objectively neutral. There are proposals to racially norm them….

  3. So it’s unconstitutional; who cares?
    Gun control is unconstitutional.
    Asset forfeiture is unconstitutional.
    No one cares about those violations, why should we care about this one?

    1. We all care, some of us just long ago gave up actually expecting the judiciary to objectively enforce the constitution.

  4. Professor Wang…Chinese ethnicity I presume. Asian-Americans opinion is split on affirmative action. Surveys seem to indicate new Asian immigrants don’t want it, but the “Americanized” 2nd and 3rd generations support it more. I suspect that the ones born here want a piece of the pie, though I’m not sure they will be able to get it, if say, CA removes the prohibition on it.

    1. What exactly does the ethnicity of the author have to do with the strength (or lack thereof) of the logic in the paper or with the statistical significance of the supporting data? Are only “some people” allowed to make certain arguments now?

      1. I’m not sure what you’re getting at or where you’re coming from. I’m only trying to note that Asian Americans are split on affirmative action, and speculating on a reason why. Maybe it’s foolish of me to ask this commentariat’s opinion on any subject, but there it is.

        Behind that speculation, is the fact that Asian are better off than whites, in regards to income and other similar measures, so it is curious to my why they support it because they are not the logical beneficiaries.

        1. One of the reasons I am proud of being a Jew (albeit not a religious one) is that Jews very often support and promote policies and laws that are not to their direct benefit (eg, higher taxes on the rich and filthy rich; affirmative action). I’d like to believe that it’s because we Jews, writ large, believe that if less fortunate are lifted up, we all benefit. But I’ve seen no actual research on this phenomenon, so I have no idea if I’m projecting.

          1. The dispute between those of good intent on the right and the left is *how* to *best* lift up the less fortunate. The disagreement is on means, not end.

          2. I’d like to believe that it’s because we Jews, writ large, believe that if less fortunate are lifted up, we all benefit.

            Feel free to contribute to the charity of your choice with whatever conditions you would like to lift the less fortunate up. Feel morally obligated to abjure from supporting “policies and laws” that deprive me of the fruits of my labor so you can feel good about yourself.

      2. Yes, only certain people are allowed to make certain criticisms or present certain arguments. It used to be limited to the use of certain words, but it is a much wider trap now.

        There are no set rules or protocols. You find out you have trespassed the limits of acceptable speech only after the mob shows up to demand it’s pound of flesh. Being on their side is no defense – ask the WI pol who got his butt beat.

      3. The arguments for affirmative action tend to break down when it’s minority versus minority.

        Asian Americans, through cultural emphasis in education, tend to outperform other minorities in academics and standardized testing.

        Affirmative action tends to work against them so they don’t out-compete Hispanics and blacks who are considered more oppressed.

        In the views of a lot of progressives, they’re just too White.

        1. I have never met an “Asian” and I doubt you have either.

          I know people who identify as Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Philippineo, etc. — these are cultures who have hatreds that go back THOUSANDS of years, racial hatreds that make our issues look irrelevant by comparison.

          Just saying….

      4. What exactly does the ethnicity of the author have to do with the strength (or lack thereof) of the logic in the paper

        To honest people, nothing. To racists, something. Nowadays, this also includes some on the left, who, if the person in question deviates from the list of permitted opinions assigned their race by the white liberal intelligentsia, authorizes whitesplaining at them that they don’t understand their own oppressed status.

        1. Looks like you called mad_kalak a racist in your hurry to wax on about how the left are the real racists these days.

  5. Folks, here is a link to the paper published by Wang:

  6. If the administrator was charged, even in part, even with ministerial duties, that involved implementing an affirmative action plan I suspect that is enough to cover the university even if this was done purely for ideological retribution.

    There is a big difference in say an administrator with ministerial duties saying they don’t support affirmative action as a policy at a cocktail party as opposed to publishing a hard hitting peer reviewed piece of it. I don’t think it is a far cry for a superior to have good faith questions of that administrators ability to oversee even a portion of a lawfully enacted affirmative action program.

    That said, I’m quite sure this was done purely as ideological retribution because of his “wrong think.”

    1. Or maybe he’s just a jerk or poor performer who was already on thin ice?

      1. Funny many people said the same thing about the Auburn queer black gender queer studies instructor who got fired. You objected to that assertion being used for squashing his free speech rights.

        1. But this is different…

      2. “Reverend” (what religion?), do you really think that it even remotely like that Wang lost his administrative position as director of the cardiology electrophysiology program because he was a “poor performer…already on thin ice”? Pretty implausible IMNSHO, and his would not be a field for anyone less than fully competent to try faking it. That would be like trying to fake it as a university math professor.

        1. He believes in the Gospel of Holy Leftism.

      3. Or maybe he’s just a jerk or poor performer who was already on thin ice?

        Ahh, the “he’s just a disgruntled former employee” defense.

  7. Also maybe he shouldn’t have called it a “white paper”….

    1. bah dum dum…*dish*

    2. “Also maybe he shouldn’t have called it a “white paper”….”

      It’s the black ink that does all the work, but the white paper takes all the credit.

      1. It is Black ink ya racist.

      2. I believe it is also called “Grey Literature” — for reasons I can not comprehend.

    3. Yeah, in Rossami’s comment above, I initially read “the very white paper” as meaning “the extremely white paper”, rather than as “the specific ‘white paper'”.

    4. As you know, white papers were created by the publishing and academic world long before anything the professor did or wrote. Troll.

  8. Weird, no posts here from all the defenders of the auburn guy yesterday.

    1. Whew! Good point. I didn’t even think of that.

    2. I posted elsewhere on Auburn. That guy should not lose his expected short-term teaching post. This guy shouldn’t be bounced from his administrative post.

    3. Don’t worry AK posted above and true to form expects the usual double standard to apply to conservative vs. liberal speech. Your expectation has been satisfied.

    4. Dude shouldn’t have gotten fired for publishing this.

    5. Well, the Auburn guy was under fierce attack here yesterday by all the soi-disant free-speech zealots among the commenters, so maybe a defense was justified.

      As for this, yeah, it seems silly.

      Do I have to say this every time?

      I notice that no one is demanding that Eugene comment on the Auburn situation.

    1. And I fear, dangerous.

      1. I’ll add it to the list of crap you think will lead to some right-wing lunatic shooting people, except you blame the victims.

        1. Whenever I laugh at people describing someone as having a “derangement syndrome,”- someone like you comes along and makes a comment like this.

          Your hate consumes you — let it go, dude. It is NOT worth it.

          1. Funny you think I hate.

            Because I don’t.

            1. As a fish does not know it is wet, I fear you fail to comprehend the ocean.

              1. Thanks for telling me what I feel to me via Internet diagnosis.

        2. This crap has led to left-wing lunatics shooting people.

          Except you blame the victims.

          1. Affirmative Action has lead to the leftists shooting people?

  9. (1) Just to be clear, Pittsburgh is indeed a public university (and thus a “state actor”) for purposes of applying the constitutional rules.


    As I said, that’s legalese, not ethics.

  10. I just skimmed Wang’s article, haven’t seen the responses it drew from readers.

    Were I counsel to Wang’s school, I would have urged them to go no further than a mealy-mouthed expression of regret for any pain caused by Dr. Wang’s discussion of this fraught subject and respond no further. Wang deserves to be defended for his entirely respectable, evidence-supported opinion, and his over-the-top (as opposed to reasonable ones) critics are entitled to no more than that, if indeed to that much.

    If someone is going to manage my cardiac rhythm problem or that of a family member or friend, I want to be supremely confident in their competence. Let those who would place a higher priority on “diversity” in their health care providers make their choice among specialists in the most demanding fields of care according to their values.

  11. “Reverend” (what religion?), do you really think that it even remotely likely that Wang lost his administrative position as director of the cardiology electrophysiology program because he was a “poor performer…already on thin ice”? Pretty implausible IMNSHO, and his would not be a field for anyone less than fully competent to try faking it. That would be like trying to fake it as a university math professor.

  12. This reaction to affirmative action is why black people interested in academia or professional degrees should look at HBCUs.

    Leftists at major universities are only interested in tokenism.

    1. Segregation now and forever, eh?

    2. It pains me to say this, but a lot (not all) of the HBCU really aren’t that good anymore, to the point where they would be having serious troubles with accreditation were it not for the “HB” part.

      In some cases it is finances, and not being mentioned is that Trump bailed a bunch of them out, although in some cases it involves issues with the people running then — not quite embezzlement but also not exactly helpful to the institution, either.

      In others it involves academics and politics — they’re hiring from the same pool of tenured radicals that everyone else is, and the folks that made these places great back in the 1960’s have all retired…

      My advice would be to look very carefully at the specific program you are interested in, and I’d say that about any IHE.

  13. The publication of peer-reviewed research that tends to question prevailing orthodoxies lies at the heart of what the First Amendment protects.

    It’s often best to choose a sympathetic case fo litigate to make key points, such as the now-controversial idea that the kind of censorship the First Amendment protects against is not limited to right-wing censorship.

    This might be auch a case.

  14. The publication of research in peer-reviewed journal is part of the normal functioning of universities and does not disruot it. The se disruption here appears to have been on the administration’s part.

  15. Late to the party here.
    So when Trump fires someone from his staff because he does not like something they said on a topic of political debate, he is violating the First Amendment?
    The Vindman brothers could sue him on those grounds?

    If a person hired to be a spokesperson for a public university refuses to say what the university leadership wants and substitutes their own opinions, that is protected by the First Amendment?

    As head of a training program, vigorously supporting the diversity efforts of the program and the department would have been part of his job.

    Professors are routinely fired from administrative leadership roles for failing to follow the party line on any number of topics. Typically for things that no one thinks would imperil their position on the faculty. Many of the statements concern purely inside university political issues and minor infractions. Once someone is appointed to a leadership role, going along with the higher ups is part of the job.

    Non-faculty administrators at universities are on even thinner ice.

  16. First Amendment issues aside, this was a very strange article for this journal to publish. The journal publishes biomedical research related to cardiology. The paper was a political position paper and, to give it as much credit as possible, a social science piece on affirmative action. There are journals for which this would be a normal thing to publish. But the Journal of the American Heart Association is not one of them.
    It would be as if the UCLA Law Review were to publish an article on physical chemistry. The editors of that Review are not experts in physical chemistry and would have no way to review the submission.
    The most likely journal in the medical realm would have been Academic Medicine.
    The real mystery is why this article was even sent to reviewers as opposed to responding to the authors that the JAHA publishes biomedical research, which this was not.

    Interestingly, the author published essentially the same article a year earlier in a different cardiology journal.

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