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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Administration

Tenured UH music prof. dismissed by Board of Regents


The UH System Board of Regents approved a recommendation for the dismissal of tenured Moores School of Music professor Lawrence Wheeler on the grounds of “substantial and manifest neglect of professional or academic responsibilities.” 

The viola and chamber music professor came under fire for refusing to teach his assigned courses for Fall 2018 and Fall 2019 and failing to meet the faculty workload requirement of three undergraduate courses per semester, according to a statement of charges. 

“There is … no doubt that on multiple occasions, professor Wheeler’s willful and unprofessional conduct not only interfered with the instructional and administrative functions of his home department, but also led to diminished student confidence in the Moores School of Music and by extension, the University of Houston,” said Mark Clarke, associate provost for faculty affairs and development. 

Wheeler has previously been subject to a hearing before the University faculty grievance committee. The tribunal provided a unanimous recommendation for Wheeler’s dismissal, Clarke said. Dismissal proceedings began in February 2019.  

Wheeler pushed back against Clarke’s claims, arguing that his termination after 44 years of service to the University follows a decade of discrimination by administrators, including Kathrine G. McGovern College of Arts dean Andrew Davis

He said Davis leveled adverse administrative actions against him after he reported Davis for conducting an alleged improper relationship with a graduate student while Davis was the graduate studies director of the Moores School of Music. These claims have not been substantiated. 

Outside of the alleged departmental administrative prejudice, Wheeler believes the call for his termination is in part a retaliation to his appearance before the Board of Regents in May 2017. At the time, he reported that UH was allegedly breaking the law by withholding faculty workload and salary information. 

“My dismissal is not the result of due process and fair and equal treatment, but bad faith, unethical and dishonest actions, discrimination and retaliation by various University administrators who represent you, the Board of Regents,” Wheeler said. 

Clarke reported that Wheeler’s claims were false. 

“The faculty hearing tribunal found his allegations to be baseless and lacking any evidence to support them,” Clarke said. 

Wheeler attributed his refusal to teach one of his assigned courses, a music fundamentals class, in Fall 2018 and Fall 2019 to the subject being outside of his area of expertise and to a difficulty reading the text required for the course. He has taught the course a total of seventeen times.

That course was assigned not because there were others who wanted to teach it, it was done deliberately to humiliate me and to put me in a situation where I might refuse to teach it,” Wheeler said. 

Chairman Tillman Fertitta pushed back on Wheeler’s claim.

“I think that I could probably teach anything after seventeen times of practicing it,” Fertitta said. “If you’re a professional, you learn to present something.”

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