A Texas McCombs Professor Is At The Center Of A New Salvo In The Culture War

Richard Lowery, a finance professor at Texas-Austin McCombs, is suing the Texas A&M University system over a new fellowship program that he says discriminates against White and Asian-American faculty candidates. Salem Center photo

A finance professor at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business is suing a major state university system over its hiring policies in a case that seems like it was designed in a think-tank for national attention — because it was.

Richard Lowery, a finance professor at McCombs, says the Texas A&M University System is discriminating against White and Asian-American teaching candidates through its new faculty fellowship program for African Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Lowery, who is White, says the fellowship violates federal law.

The legal broadside has garnered heavy media attention in large part because it is supported by a group founded by Stephen Miller, former speechwriter and adviser for President Donald Trump and widely acknowledged architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Miller is well-known to the world of graduate business education as the prime mover behind the Trump administration’s restrictions of the H-1B visa program, which has long been viewed by B-schools as vital to the pipeline of talent coming to the U.S.

A&M FELLOWSHIP IS ‘FLATLY ILLEGAL’ SAYS McCOMBS PROF

Richard Lowery. American Institute for Economic Research photo

The Accountability, Climate, Equity and Scholarship Faculty Fellows Program was announced in July by Annie McGown, Texas A&M vice president and associate provost for diversity, and N. K. Anand, vice president for faculty affairs. Through it, the A&M system — which includes 11 Texas universities serving more than 150,000 students — has promised to provide “50% matching base salary and benefits, up to a maximum contribution of $100,000 (salary and fringe) for new mid-career and senior tenure-track hires.” The fellowship includes as priorities:

  • “Hires that significantly advance campus goals and our land-grant mission for a demographic composition that represents the State of Texas.”
  • “Hires who have demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and commitment to supporting our student body (e.g., student mentoring, teaching, service).”
  • “Hires that will expand the capacity of Texas A&M University to more effectively serve students of color and low-income students, and thereby maintain HSI eligibility. The candidates must clearly communicate how their commitment to enhancing opportunities for underserved populations may benefit Texas A&M University.”

In his lawsuit, Lowery says Texas A&M’s $2 million ACES fellowship violates not only Title VI and Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act but also the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. “Texas A&M’s proclaimed goal of establishing a faculty whose racial composition attains ‘parity with that of the state of Texas’ seeks to achieve racial balancing,” Lowery’s lawsuit says, “which is flatly illegal under Title VI and the binding precedent of the Supreme Court.”

LOWERY REPRESENTED BY GROUP PACKED WITH TRUMP OFFICIALS

In a statement, a Texas A&M spokesman said Lowery’s lawsuit was an “unusual job application when Mr. Lowery says in the lawsuit he is ‘able and ready’ to apply for a faculty appointment at Texas A&M. But our lawyers will review the lawsuit, confer with Texas A&M and take appropriate action as warranted.”

The case has gained national attention largely insofar as Lowery’s backers are high-profile conservatives. He is represented by America First Legal, a group created by former Trump adviser Miller and Jonathan Mitchell, a former solicitor general for Texas. Mitchell is the legal architect of Texas’ six-week abortion ban. Besides Miller, America First Legal lists among its board of directors Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, and Matthew Whitaker, former acting attorney general. Already the case has drawn coverage from the Texas Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, and — in perhaps the surest sign that it is destined to be a focus at least of right-wing media attention until resolution (and perhaps beyond) — The National Review.

Reached by email, Lowery referred Poets&Quants‘ request for comment to his attorney Gene Hamilton, a Federalist Society contributor and former Trump administration official who served as counsel to attorneys general Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr and acting attorneys general Whitaker and Jeff Rosen. Hamilton, also listed as one of America First Legal’s directors, did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment.

LOWERY IS A 2009 PHD GRADUATE OF CMU TEPPER

Lowery is a senior scholar at Texas McCombs’ Salem Center for Policy, which launched in 2020 promising to help “students and business leaders better understand the costs, benefits and consequences of policy decisions.” The Center “works with students, policymakers, and business leaders to advance the use of data science in public policy research and practice,” according to its website. The center also plans events that “bring together policy experts, business leaders, and students”; the next, slated for Sept. 19, is titled “Dependence & Autonomy: Lunch Talk with Professor Carl R. Trueman.” Trueman, a professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College, is described as “an esteemed church historian” who previously taught at Princeton University.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Lowery received his Ph.D. in Economics from Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in 2009. He was an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin from June of that year to 2017; he became an associate professor at the McCombs School in May 2017. According to his personal page, his research areas are theoretical corporate finance and financial intermediation, and experimental economics.

Lowery has shared his conservative views widely, publishing articles at The Hill, the Texas Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram — and he has not reserved his criticisms of diversity, equity and inclusion policies to competing institutions. He has also trained fire on his own school. In an article titled “Higher Ed Jobs: Only the Woke Need Apply” in an outlet called the Heartland Daily News on August 10, he begins:

“After hypocritically ranting about the threat to ‘academic freedom’ posed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s higher education reform proposals, the faculty and administration at the University of Texas–Austin appear poised to end the remaining vestiges of free expression and free inquiry at our institution. The university’s ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ (DEI) policy – which already requires that those seeking hiring and promotion demonstrate political commitment to critical race theory and radical gender ideologies – will now be ‘sharpened,’ apparently to include mandatory ‘diversity’ statements from job applicants.”

DON’T MISS MEET THE TEXAS McCOMBS MBA CLASS OF 2023 and B-SCHOOLS REACT TO TRUMP’S SUSPENSION OF H-1B VISAS