Professor punished for opposing affirmative action, lawsuit alleges

A professor filed a second lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh after administrators allegedly stripped his leadership position over a journal article criticizing affirmative action.

The article, later retracted by the Journal of the American Heart Association, argued that 'Asians have never been recognized ... as deserving any special consideration' by medical schools.

A professor is bringing a second lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), claiming that administrators stripped his leadership position because he opposes affirmative action. 

Norman Wang, an associate professor of medicine, filed the new lawsuit on Apr. 4, alleging that Pitt retaliated against him for reporting racial discrimination. The lawsuit “identifies additional Pitt administrators” who participated in the retaliation, according to his legal representation, the Center for Individual Rights (CIR).

Wang first sued Pitt in 2020 after questioning “the legality, effectiveness, and wisdom” of affirmative action in a journal article. He also told administrators that race-based admissions at Pitt’s medical school “were violating federal law.” 

The original lawsuit says that administrators soon removed Wang from a fellowship director role, with the chair of Pitt’s Department of Medicine calling Wang’s article “antithetical” to the medical school’s values and “deeply hurtful” to its faculty. 

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“Unfortunately, university professors are under increasing pressure to silence viewpoints deemed controversial by university officials,” CIR President Terence Pell told Campus Reform. “The overt retaliation against [p]rofessors like Dr. Wang sends a message to other professors to simply avoid viewpoints that call into question current orthodox views about race and gender.”

Wang’s article appeared in, but was later retracted by, the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). He wrote that “Asians have never been recognized by the [Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)] as deserving any special consideration … since 1969,” the year that AAMC began its affirmative action program. 

“Demographic balancing,” he continues, “necessitates affirmative action for underrepresented groups and negative action for ‘overrepresented’ groups,” a claim made by Students for Fair Admissions, the organization suing Harvard and the University of North Carolina over their race-conscious admissions.  

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Suzanne Grant with the American Heart Association (AHA) says that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) asked JAHA to retract the article. “The Journal retracted the paper in question after confirming that action was in the best interest of the public and the research community,” Grant told Campus Reform.

JAHA’s retraction notice points out “serious concerns” brought forward by UPMC and provides two examples of Wang’s “misconceptions and misquotes” about diversity initiatives. 

AHA and UPMC are named in Wang’s original lawsuit. Pell says that Pitt “has not attempted to justify the retaliation.”

“Rather, the University has argued that it has no responsibility for what took place, because the actions taken against Dr. Wang were solely those of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and not the University,” he writes. 

“This defense is contradicted by new facts that are alleged in the new complaint, particularly the fact that high-level Pitt administrators were directly involved in the decision to retaliate against Dr. Wang.”

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.