Judge rules that US university ‘suppressed academic scholarship’

Judge rules that US university ‘suppressed academic scholarship’


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2022

The University of North Texas has been humiliated by a judge’s ruling that it violated the first amendement to the US Constitution by removing Professor Tim Jackson from the editorship of the Journal of Schenkerian Studies.

Jackson fell foul of a New York academic Philip Ewell, who accused Heinrich Schekner of racism. When Jackson defended the famed Viennese theorist he, too, was accused of racism. The university, terrified of student activism and international solidarity, removed Jackson from his editorship.

Judge Amos Mazzant has now ruled (inter alia):

…. Supreme Court precedent in the realm of academia could not be clearer:

The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident. No one should underestimate the vital role in a democracy that is played by those who guide and train our youth. To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation. No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made. Particularly is that true in the social sciences, where few, if any, principles are accepted as absolutes. Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die….

Plaintiff alleges these actions have left him banished from the Journal he founded. Plaintiff also alleges UNT removed him from the Journal for his speech. The Court at the 12(b)(6) stage views the alleged facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and, accordingly, can reasonably infer that Plaintiff was disciplined as a result of the controversial remarks published in Volume 12 of the Journal.


  • Alexander Radziewski says:

    Schenkner himself can be considered as a European supremacist at his time which was more the standard even in academic circles. I wonder if the pro and con discussion is about his political position or towards the value of his contributions to the classical music. Btw, his value as a music theorist is much higher in the USA than ib Europe.

    • Tom Moore says:

      Just possibly he is more highly valued in the USA because there are no Jews left in Europe.

    • Benno v Archimboldi says:

      “can be considered as a European supremacist” by whom? #1. I think you should at least learn how to spell “Schenker” before you attempt to criticize him or his work.#2 H.S. had his musical preferences (as I am sure you do too) represented by a handful of composers that he considered creators of great masterpieces: Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, et al. On the other hand, he adamantly disliked French music in particular both the music and theoretical work of J.P. Rameau. All this does not check as “European Supremacist.” To me it checks as one more personal opinion on music by a highly-influential music theorist. It is true than H.S.’s theories did not gain much attention in Europe during his lifetime. He became most influential in the U.S. through the work of Salzer, Schachter and others.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Right. Now it’s time to declare war on CRT.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      On the contrary, they’re wanting another term of Trump. And they’ll get one if this keeps up, since they’ve learned zero about why they got him last time!! Those who are too dumb to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s true that the right is making a lot of hay with this lawsuit, but this case for me has always been about academic freedom. The vitriol turned against Jackson, from a surprising number of academics and graduate students, seemed intent on crushing him and making him an outcast, unemployable by any university department. There is merit in Jackson’s article. If we silence Jackson for making an unpopular argument that’s backed with secondary literature just because we don’t like it, we invite more academic puritans to impose their own views on what is acceptable research. We leave the individual hanging out to dry to promote a kind of privileged groupthink and virtue-signaling that may (I hope) redress the balance of POC academics in music, but which will do nothing whatsoever for the lower- and lower-class POC who have profound struggles due to systemic racism. With regard to the former, there must be a better way to do it than is currently being done.

        • Anthony Sayer says:

          To reply to the early swipe, you’ll never find anyone on the right suppressing free speech, challenging academic freedom or seeking to eradicate uncomfortable opinions.

  • JohnfromDenver says:

    The framing is wildly misleading. The judge has not decided the case; he has merely declined a motion to dismiss it, on the grounds the plaintiff has a plausible case, i.e., a not obviously insufficient one.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It is remarkable that old Schenker was able to stirr-up such absurd controversy long after his death.

    But the ruling is good news for American universities facing the Great Awokening.

  • Sam's Hot Car Lot says:

    Nice to see that sanity still prevails in American courts, even if it’s rarer in American universities.

  • PaulD says:

    This ruling is only the first step, allowing the professor’s case to go forward since it is likely to succeed. It should be seen, though, as a blow against the university.

  • Will the Journal under Jackson’s editorship become a kind of pariah within the professional community of music theorists?

    After the debacle created by his ad hominem attack of Ewell, and his comments that were perceived by some as insulting to the black community, UNT’s stated goal was to “restructure and rebrand the journal to promote its long term viability.” Will the court’s ruling prevent that and harm the Journal’s future?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Ewell sounds like just another jerk. When you’re opinion is far more valuable than your income you’re bound to stick with it!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Totally in agreement here, Sue. And characterizing Jackson’s article as an ad hominem attack is WAY far from the mark of what he did. Unfortunately, most of those in sympathy for Ewell are too close-minded to read the article critically because they have been conditioned by the more puritan aspects of the BLM and SJ movements. I truly pity them. I can support Ewell but still remain able to find holes in his argument, not the least of which is that the idea that some tones are more important than others is not a product of nineteenth-century German racism: it’s one of the founding principles of species counterpoint.

        • Accusing Ewell of “black anti-Semitism” without any substantiation is clearly an ad hominem attack.

          • Tom Moore says:

            is it by chance that Ewell chose a Jew to attack in developing his white racial frame for music theory?

          • Anti-Semitism is a serious and defamatory charge and has been leveled in absence of any substantiation.

          • Tom Moore says:

            Mr. Osborne, are you a Jew? are you suggesting that Jews don’t recognize anti-semitism?

          • Scott Fruehwald says:

            This blog had an article about three weeks ago that demonstrated that Ewell had intentionally misquoted a Schenker scholar to make it look like the scholar was accusing Schenker of biological racism, when the quote in full was about German nationalism. https://quillette.com/author/timothy/

            As I wrote then, “In other words, by omitting three sentences, one from within the quote itself and then two immediately following it, Ewell changed both Eybl’s and Schenker’s meaning from culture to `biological race. This is not a disagreement about how a text should be translated; rather, it is a deliberate attempt to falsify meaning to support Ewell’s academic argument by omitting three sentences.”

            Similarly, Professor Barry Wiener has demonstrated that Ewell took several of Schenker’s quotes out of context to make it look like Schenker was talking about nationalism. In other words, when he spoke of “inferior races,” he was talking about the French, the Germans, and the Americans, who has defeated Germany on WWI.

            Why would someone misquote and misrepresent a Jewish scholar to make him look like a biological racist when there is very little evidence that he was one? Draw your own conclusion.

          • Anonymous says:

            He said that the behavior was similar to an observed, well-substantiated African-American animus toward Jews. These are not at all the same things.

          • Enquirer says:

            Timothy Jackson said “Ewell’s denunciation of Schenker
            and Schenkerians may be seen as part and parcel of the much broader current of Black anti-Semitism.” William Osborne is correct.

            Re-reading Jackson’s paper, I note that he misrepresents Ewell far more than Ewell misrepresents Schenker(as he asserts). E.g.
            “He is uninterested in bringing Blacks up to “standard” so they can compete. On the contrary, he is claiming that those very standards are in themselves racist. African Americans have the right to embrace their own culture as precious — i.e. rap music, hip hop, etc. — and study and teach it in universities, so that the products of the “defective,” “racist” White culture — i.e., classical music — -can be shunted aside.”

            What Ewell actually says is that music-theory curricula could be expanded “to include nonwestern and nonwhite forms of music theory. … Western tonality, as one notable organizing musial force, will surely retain a seat at the table, but the music theories of nonwestern cultures — from Asia, South America, or Africa, for instance — can and should be part of basic required music-theory curricula” at all levels.

            Jackson’s main argument seems to be: Schenker and many of his disciples were/are Jewish; Black anti-Semitism is a known feature of life in the United States; therefore Ewell, who is Black, must be anti-Semitic since he addresses the issue of Schenker’s racism.

          • Scott says:

            Meghan. Ewell misrepresented Schenker through incomplete quotation and deceptive quotation. See the Wiener article and the Jackson article in Quillette. For example, when Schenker was talking about “inferior races, he was talking about the French, not Blacks.

            Ewell is a fraud.

          • Enquirer says:

            Timothy Jackson, by a virtuoso display of selective quotation and special pleading, attempts to do away with any suggestion that Schenker had a racist bone in his body. A cursory dip into the online Schenker documents gives a different picture, one closer to Ewell’s (and Schachter’s, and Eybl’s). Jackson perhaps understandably sees Schenker through a Jewish lens; but he downplays Schenker’s strident German nationalism, and concomitant belief in the superiority of the German Volk. In his hierarchical structure, other European nations were below Germany, and black people were at the bottom of the pile.

          • Scott says:

            Meghan. Ewell left out three sentences from the Eybl quote, changing German nationalism culture to biological racism. Ewell is a charlatan.

          • Guest says:

            Points raised here are often lost in this discussion. Ewell would deny the current generation of music students the in-depth training in tonality on which he built his own career. Nothing in his recent writings suggests that he knows the first thing about world music, or non-western music theory; yet all of a sudden music schools in the West should devote half their music theory curricula to these all-important subjects? Maybe if Ewell knew anything about those subjects, or had any real respect for them, he wouldn’t treat them so lightly.

          • Tom Moore says:

            As i recall, there is likewise little or nothing in his previous writings (focused on Russian music) that suggest he has a mastery of German or has a familiarity with Austrian and German music and culture.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The tide is slowly turning on woke tyrants. So reminiscent of Bolshevik Russia that it’s frightening.

  • Scott Fruehwald says:

    This is a major victory for Dr. Jackson and academic freedom. While the case still has a way to go, the judge’s tone, characterization of facts, and rulings of law lead me to believe that Jackson will ultimately prevail. (I am a retired lawyer)

    Norman, you are right. This was a humiliating defeat for UNT.

  • As this case continues, I’m not so sure it will succeed. Being removed as an editor for incompetency is not a suppression of free speech.

    • Tom Moore says:

      Give us a break. It’s not about incompetency. It’s clearly a political attack.

    • Scott Fruehwald says:

      Did you read the opinion? The language suggests that the judge is strongly on Jackson’s side. He writes a lot about free speech and suppression of scholarship. Also, he basically accepted Jackson’s statement of facts.

      After this opinion, if I were the university I would settle.

  • This is a bigger issue than we realize.

    “The Journal of Schenkerian Studies” may have dozens of readers.

    • Guest says:

      The journal has a small number of subscriptions, that is true. But it can’t be as marginal as your remark suggests if the Society for Music Theory Executive Board would drop everything during the summer and issue a written condemnation.