Last Summer, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor Norman Wang warned his colleagues that the school’s racial and ethnic admissions policies were illegal and published a white paper arguing such preferences hurt the very students they aim to help.
Shortly after, UPMC removed Wang as director of the school’s fellowship program in clinical cardiac electrophysiology, The College Fix reported. The school also “barred him from interacting with medical students.”
On July 31, 2020, Wang met with the chief of Pitt’s cardiology division, Samir Saba, and professor Kathryn Berlacher. In that meeting, Wang told them that the way they handle racial and ethnic admissions was likely illegal. A few days later, a white paper written by Wang was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The paper argued that affirmative action policies hurt black and Hispanic students that were supposed to be helped by the policies. He also argued affirmative action hurt “the medical academy” as a whole.
Saba and Berlacher criticized the article, and UPMC sent JAHA’s editor-in-chief a letter claiming “the article contains many misconceptions and misquotes and that together those inaccuracies, misstatements, and selective misreading of source materials void the paper of its scientific validity.” JAHA decided to retract the article based on the information provided by UPMC.
As the Fix reported, Wang was removed from his directorship shortly after the meeting and the paper’s retraction. “Saba, Berlarcher, Department of Medicine Chair Mark Gladwin and unknown others ‘resolved and agreed to impose adverse employment consequences’ against him,” the outlet reported.
Wang filed a lawsuit against UPMC, JAHA, and others, arguing his First Amendment rights were violated when he was retaliated against. The Center for Individual Rights President Terry Pell told the Fix in an email that many of the university officials who took action against Wang were “under the color of state authority and thereby subject to the First Amendment.”
In one email, Gladwin, a white man, claimed Wang’s paper and warnings “threaten to undermine recruitment and retention of our most qualified trainees, and undermine the confidence and morale of our faculty.” He added that patients were “more likely to agree to life-saving interventions” if their doctors looked like them.
In addition to Wang’s lawsuit, the Department of Education also opened an investigation into UPMC over the professor’s punishments. As the Fix reported, the Department of Education warned “the university that it was tacitly admitting to practicing ‘systemic discrimination based on race’ in violation of the Civil Rights Act.”
The investigation began in October but may face challenges under the Biden administration, which has vowed to undo much of what the Trump administration accomplished. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to the University of Pittsburgh earlier this month warning the school that it had violated “its obligation to uphold the First Amendment rights of its professors,” and adding that the school should rescind Wang’s “punishment.”
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