Some University of Pennsylvania students and professors have for years been calling for the ouster of Amy Wax, the polarizing law professor who courted the scandal with inflammatory and racist remarks and writings and seemed to enjoy the resulting controversies. Despite repeated calls for her removal from her permanent post and criticism of her actions – including by university leaders – that followed each controversy, Wax remained in office and seemed firmly protected by free speech and human rights. academic freedom.

That pattern may be about to change: Penn Law School’s dean has begun a process that could lead to Wax being fired.

Last month, he sent a 12-page letter to the president of the Faculty Senate in which he said, “While the imposition of sanctions on a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania is a ‘rare occurrence ”, Wax’s continued violations of university standards, the increasingly negative impact his conduct has had on students, faculty and staff and his blatant disregard and disregard for university policies and procedures – in fact his primary mission – constitute a major breach of academic standards under the Faculty Handbook. Thus, I respectfully request the formation of a Hearing Panel to conduct a full review of Professor Wax’s conduct and the severe damage it has caused to our community, and to ultimately impose a major sanction against him.

A major penalty, according to Penn’s faculty handbook, can be “termination; suspension; reduction of the university base salary; [or] no salary increase stipulated in advance for a period of four years or more.

Wax did not respond to emails seeking comment. Reached by cellphone, she said, “I’ll never talk to you guys in a million years.”

She has shown no similar reluctance to share her views widely and publicly.

In January, she wrote, “I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration. Its dean responded by calling Wax’s remarks “anti-intellectual” and “racist”, saying that his “xenophobic and white supremacist views…are diametrically opposed to the policies and ethics of this institution”.

In 2019, she argued at a conference that “our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites.” This prompted a petition from various student groups demanding that she be removed from her teaching duties.

In 2018, she co-wrote an editorial in The Philadelphia Investigator arguing that “not all cultures are equal”, despite “the modern obsession with race”. The university defended its academic freedom, but said students would no longer have to take its courses, and this removed it from teaching students early in their law careers.

“I know this decision will spark difficult debates and conversations in the days, weeks and months to come, and I salute them,” wrote Theodore W. Ruger, the dean of the law at the time. “All faculty and students here will remain free to express their opinions. And all students and faculty are entitled to a law school that welcomes them equally as individuals.

But it looks like Ruger has had enough now.

What the letter says

Ruger’s letter focuses on what he calls Wax’s violations of university policies for faculty members. The letter is organized around principles that he says Wax repeatedly violated.

For example, under “Faculty shall avoid exploitation, harassment, and discriminatory treatment of students and shall avoid behaving in a manner reasonably construed to create a hostile or discriminatory class,” it lists the following:

  • She told a black student, “who asked if Wax agreed with panelist John Derbyshire’s statements that blacks are inherently inferior to whites, that ‘you can have two plants growing under the same conditions, and one will just grow taller than the other “. .’”
  • She told another black student “she only became a double Ivy ‘because of affirmative action’.”
  • Wax told a student that black students did not perform as well as white students because they were less prepared and they were less prepared because of affirmative action.
  • She said in a lecture “Mexican men are more likely to assault women and such a stereotype was accurate in the same way that ‘Germans are punctual'”.
  • She said in one class that “gay couples are not fit to raise children.”
  • She said “after a series of students with foreign-sounding names showed up that one student was ‘finally, an American’ adding, ‘that’s a good thing, trust me’.”

Under “faculty must assess the true merit of each student”, Ruger listed the following:

  • “To state, based on misleading quotes from other sources, that ‘women, on average, are less knowledgeable than men’, women are ‘less intellectual than men’, and there is ‘some evidence’ for the proposition that “men and women differ in cognitive ability.'”
  • Stating that blacks have “a different average IQ” than non-blacks, could “not be evenly distributed across all occupations”, and that such a phenomenon would not be “due to racism”.
  • Stating that “some of them shouldn’t” go to college in reference to black students who attend Penn Law and its peer law schools.
  • Stating that Asians have an “indifference to freedom”, lack “thoughtful and daring individualism”, and that “the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration”.
  • Stating that immigrants with “brown faces, Asian faces…feel anger, envy and shame,” and expressing disbelief that they would criticize the United States when “at a certain level, their country is a shithole”.
  • Claiming that “there were very intelligent Jews” among his former students but that Ashkenazi Jews “dilute [their] score like crazy because [they are] mixed marriages.

And here are the examples he gave of Wax violating the principle that “faculty should show respect to others, including the faculty”:

  • She told a black college colleague that it is “rational to be afraid of black men in elevators.”
  • While participating in a panel with a gay faculty member, she said that “no one should have to live in a dorm with a gay roommate and separately that same-sex relationships are self-centered, selfish, and not focused on the family or the community”. .”
  • She referenced faculty colleagues who criticized her as “anti-role models” when interviewing law students.

Summarizing his list (of which this article includes only the highlights), Ruger wrote: “Academic freedom for a tenured scholar is, and always has been, based on a faculty member remaining fit to fulfill the minimum job requirements. However, Wax’s conduct demonstrates a “flagrant disregard for the standards, rules, or mission of the university.” Many students expressed distrust of his ability to instruct them fairly or judge them on their individual merit. Additionally, students, faculty, and alumni have expressed that Wax’s persistent racist and bigoted statements on and off campus have created a demoralizing and degrading environment for them.

Letter reactions

The law school released this statement: “In January 2022, Dean Ruger announced that he would move forward with a University Faculty Senate process to address the growing conduct of Professor Wax. This process has required, and continues to involve, careful investigation and deliberation in order to protect the students, faculty, and staff who make up this institution, and to ensure fairness and due process for all involved, including Professor Wax. Such a process takes time, thought and involves multiple decision makers. Under University of Pennsylvania rules, with the charges filed, the propriety of Professor Wax’s conduct will now be assessed by a panel of his peers from the university’s tenured faculty. Under the university’s faculty handbook, and to preserve the integrity of the process, no further comment on the merits of the charges against Professor Wax is permitted at this time.

While Wax does not speak, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression speaks out on the case and criticizes Penn’s action.

A FIRE blog post says, “Universities should take seriously the pervasive complaints against faculty members and conduct that fall outside the protections of the First Amendment — or, at a private university like Penn, the protections promised by university – should be dealt with in a clear and transparent manner. But faculty should not be penalized for their protected expression, especially protected expression outside the classroom.

The post continued, “Unfortunately, Penn is setting a chilling precedent destined to haunt other faculty members by muddying the waters to the point where Penn’s future sanctions against Wax are inextricably tied to her protected expression. Allowing punishment for speech based on one’s point of view in one instance threatens speech across the political spectrum in the future.