Truth-Talking Penn Professor Amy Wax Appeals Punishment for Comments on Race — as Campus Left Seeks Free Speech To Rail Against Israel

The calls for Dr. Wax to face financial sanctions and loss of her named professorship come as professors at the University of Pennsylvania are demonstrating against what they called an undermining of ‘academic freedom.’

Via YouTube
The outspoken University of Pennsylvania law professor, Amy Wax, has been recommended for severe sanctions by a committee of her peers. Via YouTube

The tenured University of Pennsylvania law professor, Amy Wax, will appeal a judgment from a committee of her colleagues that has recommended severe sanctions for her outspoken comments on race, which have caused an uproar at the Ivy League institution.

A faculty senate board composed of tenured law professors on Tuesday recommended that Dr. Wax, who is an eminent legal scholar who also received a medical doctorate from Harvard, be punished with a one-year suspension at half pay, stripping of her summer pay, stripping her of her named chair, and a requirement that, when she speaks in public, Dr. Wax must make clear she is not speaking on behalf of the law school. 

The faculty committee did not recommend Dr. Wax be stripped of her tenure outright or be fired. 

Dr. Wax’s data-based comments on race and gender have for years ruffled the feathers of her students and colleagues at the Philadelphia campus and progressive activists in the surrounding vicinity. The professor has stated that she has never “seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely in the top half” and that she “can think of one or two students who scored in the top half” of her “required first-year course.” She also stated that “everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans” because of their “superior” mores.

Shortly after she penned, in August, an article denouncing cultural relativism and the decline of bourgeois values in America, a leader of Black Lives Matter in Pennsylvania, Asa Khalif, demanded that Dr. Wax be fired. Mr. Khalif threatened to disrupt university classes and other activities if demands were unmet. 

A.R. Hoffman Interviews Amy Wax at the offices of The New York Sun, March 17, 2023.
A.R. Hoffman Interviews Amy Wax at the offices of The New York Sun, March 17, 2023. Derlis Chavarria via New York Sun

The contretemps over Dr. Wax have raged for years. In March of 2018, heeding the calls from students who demanded Dr. Wax’s firing, Penn Law School’s dean at the time, Ted Ruger, stripped Dr. Wax of her role in teaching required entry-level courses at the law school.

Mr. Ruger told students at a town hall meeting that year that he was “pissed off” that she remained on faculty, a reality which he said “sucks.” He explained that the “only way to get rid of a tenured professor” is a process that will “take months.” Six years later, the formal process, which didn’t begin until 2021, is finally moving forward, though Dr. Wax has promised to appeal. 

As the Sun previously reported, the basis for the case against Dr. Wax, a report from Mr. Ruger addressing the chairman of the law school’s faculty senate, accuses her of a “callous and flagrant disregard for our University community” in the form of “incessant racist, sexist, xenophobic, and homophobic actions and statements.” Mr. Ruger demanded that faculty “call her presence demoralizing and disruptive” and students steer clear of her courses.  

The effort to sanction Dr. Wax for her speech comes at the same time as far-left, anti-Israel professors and students at Penn complain that administrators are oppressing their ability to speak freely about the Israel-Hamas war. Penn’s president, Liz Magill, was recently forced out after defending free speech and equivocating at a Congressional hearing over whether offensive speech about Israel was a violation of university policy.

The president of the University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, reads her opening statement during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Tuesday.
The president of the University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, was forced to step down last year over comments she made about antisemitism on Penn’s campus. AP/Mark Schiefelbein

The purpose of academic tenure, which was established in the academy in the early 1900s, is to protect free speech, and Dr. Wax’s holding of tenure has made her very hard to fire. According to Penn’s policies, a tenured professor can only be fired for actionable misconduct, such as committing a crime. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression wrote, “Unless Wax’s conduct violated a Penn policy, her opinions are just that: opinions. And they should be protected under her university’s promises of free expression and academic freedom.”

In late January, nearly 100 Penn faculty members and supporters held a demonstration for academic freedom on account of what they saw as the “hostile takeover of the core academic functions” of the university by donors and alumni who had grown weary of the school’s hostile environment to Jewish students. A Penn professor of history reported by the Times to have led the demonstration, Emily Offner, did not respond to the Sun’s inquiry regarding the treatment of Dr. Wax.

The New York Sun

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