Department of Ed. investigates UPitt for possible violation of professor's 'academic freedom'

The Department of Education opened an investigation into the University of Pittsburgh after the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center demoted a professor for writing an article criticizing race-based affirmative action policies.

The university told Campus Reform that they did not take action against the professor.

The United States Department of Education has announced that it is investigating the University of Pittsburgh after the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center demoted Professor of Medicine Norman Wang for an academic article he wrote criticizing race-based affirmative action policies.

As previously reported by Campus Reform, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center demoted Wang after he published a peer review journal article criticizing race-based affirmation action policies. Although the university states that his position at the school as a professor hasn’t changed, Wang lost his position as Program Director of the Electrophysiology Fellowship associated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are ”legally separate and distinct entities,” according to the University of Pittsburgh’s website. However, UPMC’s website touts its “close work with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences on breakthrough research and world-renowned health programs.” In July, UPitt and UPMC announced their participation in Operation Warpspeed, the national fast-tracked effort to develop an effective and safe Coronavirus vaccine.

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“There has been no change to Dr. Wang’s position at the University of Pittsburgh…UPMC took action in this case but the University did not. The University supports academic freedom, even when views expressed by faculty are inconsistent with the values of the University.” Margaret McDonald, the University of Pittsburgh College of Health Sciences Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs said in August.

The piece Wang wrote for the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) titled, “Diversity Inclusion, and Equity: Evolution of Race and Ethnicity Considerations for the Cardiology Workforce in the United States of American From 1969 to 2019,” goes over the history of affirmative action, and states that it hurts minorities.

“Over the past 5 decades, the American medical academy has striven to achieve racial and ethnic population parity. Recent affirmative action efforts through diversity, inclusion, and equity programs recognize neither changes in legal limitations, nor data indicating harm to underrepresented minorities. Long-term academic solutions and excellence should not be sacrificed for short-term demographic optics,” Wang wrote.

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JAHA later posted a statement on Twitter saying, “The editors of JAHA fully endorse inclusiveness in medicine and condemn all notions of discrimination. The article by Wang represents solely his view and does not reflect in any way the opinions of the AHA or the editors. The editors are currently re-evaluating the article.” 

Wang’s piece, originally published in March 2020, was retracted in August 2020. 

With news of Wang’s removal from his position, the Department of Education sent a letter to the University requesting various records, one of them including, “All records of, relating to, referring to, regarding, or concerning Dr. Norman Wang.”

The letter also states, “The U.S. Department of Education (‘Department’) has become aware of facts suggesting the University of Pittsburgh (‘Pitt’) improperly targeted Dr. Norman Wang, associate professor of medicine, with a campaign of denunciation and cancellation due to the publication of his peer-reviewed scientific article in the Journal of the American Heart Association advocating race-neutral admissions and hiring in cardiology.”

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The letter also states that the department is concerned that Wang may have been treated differently if he was of a different race.

“Consequently, the Department is concerned Pitt’s many representations to students, faculty, and consumers in the market for education credentials regarding its support for academic freedom are false…The facts further suggest 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…”

The letter from the Department of Education states that it is opening an investigation to determine whether the University of Pittsburgh violated its promise of “academic freedom” and “freedom of expression.”

The department is also investigating the University of Pittsburgh for its possible use of race-based admissions.

JAHA told Campus Reform that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center initially requested the retraction: “As noted on our website, we adhere to COPE standards and the retraction request as submitted by the institution met those for retraction.”

A spokesperson for the University of Pittsburgh told Campus Reform that the university did not take any action against Dr. Wang, but did not comment on the Department of Education’s letter.

“We don’t have any statement, but I can confirm that the University of Pittsburgh did not take any action against Dr. Wang,” the spokesperson said.

Campus Reform has reached out to Dr. Wang and UPMC for comment but hasn’t received a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mn_turn