Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor
Pitt is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possibly “improperly targeting … a campaign of denunciation and cancellation” against a professor who authored a scientific article advocating for race-neutral admission, which was later retracted.
Robert King, assistant secretary of the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education, sent a letter on Oct. 7 to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher stating that the University’s actions against Dr. Norman Wang, an associate professor of medicine, could have violated Title IV of the Civil Rights Act. The Journal of the American Heart Association published the article in March, in which Wang promoted the idea of race-neutral admissions and hiring in cardiology, and retracted it in August.
In the letter, the Department stated that Pitt removed Wang as program director of the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship at UPMC on July 31, as well as “disparaged his scholarship and subjected him to public vilification.”
“It did so solely because his academic paper concluded … ‘Ultimately, all who aspire to a profession in medicine and cardiology must be assessed as individuals on the basis of their personal merits, not their racial and ethnic identities,’” the letter said.
Pitt spokesperson Pat McMahon said the University received the letter from King and that it “did not take any adverse action against Dr. Wang.”
“We look forward to cooperating with this investigation. We are fully committed to advancing the value of academic freedom,” McMahon said. “We are also confident that our admissions and hiring policies and practices are fair and lawful. Nothing in the Department’s letter provides a basis to call into question those policies and practices.”
The letter also claimed Wang’s race was most likely a factor in Pitt’s actions and that Pitt’s statements necessarily suggest it supports and engages in overtly race-based admission and hiring.
“The facts further suggest Dr. Wang may have been disparately treated because of his race (Asian),” the letter said. “That is, Pitt would not have acted against him for publishing an academic paper containing the same or similar arguments and empirical data if he were of a different race.”
The Department added that it is concerned about this situation and how it could affect the Pitt community.
“The Department is concerned Pitt’s many representations to students, faculty and consumers in the market for education credentials regarding its support for academic freedom are false,” the letter said.