Prof Cleared Of Racism Charges May Still Resign

UChicago economist Uhlig may leave journal after colleagues' rush to judgement

Screenshot from Twitter
June 24, 2020

The University of Chicago's Harald Uhlig may resign from a prominent academic journal even after he was cleared of allegations of racial bias.

Uhlig told the Washington Free Beacon he is considering leaving his position as editor of the prestigious Journal of Political Economy (JPE) after facing calls for his ouster for criticizing the movement to defund the police following George Floyd's death.

"I am happy that I was cleared of the charges at this point and can return to my duties as JPE editor," Uhlig said. "I am still weighing the pros and cons of resigning, taking into account various perspectives."

The professor said the decision will not come easy. He stands by his criticism and says that mob rule could threaten academic neutrality. At the same time, he said he has received about 500 messages calling for his resignation not just from activists, but also colleagues, academics, and even President Obama's former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen in the wake of public pressure.

"There are also obvious aspects against me resigning, for example, it endangers the scientific neutrality of the editorial process if editors are too easily removed after a Twitter storm following their execution of free speech," Uhlig said. "Calls for resignation by 500 colleagues ... [and] Janet Yellen surely deserves due and careful consideration."

Uhlig was dismissed from his role as an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago even before a university investigation cleared him of wrongdoing. Yellen, who did not respond to a request for comment, condemned Uhlig and called on administrators to investigate him in an email to the New York Times.

"The tweets and blog posts by Harald Uhlig are extremely troubling. It would be appropriate for the University of Chicago, which is the publisher of the Journal of Political Economy, to review Uhlig's performance and suitability to continue as editor," Yellen said on June 10. He was fired the next day. Yellen has yet to comment about the investigation's results, nor has she reached out to Uhlig.

The journal temporarily suspended Uhlig to investigate allegations that he made racially insensitive comments during a 2014 lecture. On Monday, the University of Chicago announced that its racial bias investigation found no wrongdoing on Uhlig's part.

"The University has completed a review of claims that a faculty member engaged in discriminatory conduct on the basis of race in a University classroom. The review concluded that at this time there is not a basis for a further investigation or disciplinary proceeding," a university spokesman said.

The journal said after the completion of the university's investigation, "the Advisory Board of the Journal of Political Economy has determined that he may return from leave as editor." The journal did not respond to requests for comment.

Professors, students, and alumni submitted a petition to the University of Chicago and the journal in early June calling for his editorial position to be revoked for "trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement." Allegations of racial bias from a former student resurfaced in the aftermath of the petition.

A former student is also alleging that Uhlig made racially insensitive remarks. Bocar Ba, a former University of Chicago student and current University of Pennsylvania Law School fellow, has said that Uhlig made fun of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a 2014 lecture. Ba did not respond to a request for comment.

Uhlig has maintained his innocence and was grateful that the university did its due diligence, rather than rushing to judgment. He told the Free Beacon that his inbox has grown quieter in recent days. The same colleagues and professors that previously flooded him with calls for his resignation have not followed up since the completion of the investigation.

"It looks to me that the University of Chicago took its responsibilities seriously of looking into the charges of discrimination," Uhlig said. "I do not recall having seen an apology from any of them. I am also not one calling for apologies."