OFF KEY: Prof PUNISHED For Saying Music Theory Is NOT Racist

A professor at the University of North Texas served the school a lawsuit after he was punished for pushing back against the idea that music theory is a function of white supremacy.

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Timothy Jackson, a distinguished university research professor of theory with the music history, theory and ethnomusicology division at the University of North Texas, claims the school violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when it removed him from the academic journal he co-established and stripped funding from the center he runs, Campus Reform first reported.

Students and faculty claimed Jackson was “racist” for pushing back against a speech by Hunter College of the City University of New York professor Philip Ewell titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame.”

Is music theory racist?

Ewell, who is black, claimed music theory is “white” and said he is uncomfortable that most music theory professors are white. The New York professor also claimed Heinrich Schenker, a Jewish music theorist, was an “ardent racist and German nationalist.”

Jackson, a Schenker scholar, organized a symposium with the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, which he co-founded at UNT, to respond to Ewell’s claims.

Differing opinions were published in July 2020. Jackson argued that Schenker was a victim of anti-Semitism and suffered under the oppression of the Nazi regime. Jackson also pushed back against the claim music theory is “racist,” writing most black men and women don’t “grow up in homes where classical music is profoundly valued, and therefore lack the necessary background.”

Ewell’s supporters – at least 18 faculty members and graduate students – called on UNT to fire Jackson.

According to the lawsuit, the university opened a formal investigation into the professor’s journal and UNT Press. Then Jackson found out he was removed from the journal and had funding stripped from the Center for Schenkerian Studies.

“Timothy Jackson’s goals have been consistent from the beginning, and that is to express academic freedom without fear of retaliation from those who disagree,” Michael Thad Allen, Jackson’s lead attorney, told Campus Reform.

UNT plans to appeal the district court’s decision to deny the motion to dismiss the case.

“Dr. Jackson’s faculty colleagues have not harmed him in any way, and federal court is not the place to try the plaintiff’s baseless allegations against them,” a spokesperson for the school said. “Further, neither the Board of Regents nor the university have taken any adverse action against Dr. Jackson.