wax-column
Penn Law professor Amy Wax Credit: Julia Schorr

Controversial Penn Law Professor Amy Wax is set to receive an award in New York City on April 12. 

The National Association of Scholars, often characterized as a conservative advocacy group combatting a "liberal bias" in education, will present the Peter Shaw Award to Wax "for her courage in the face of continued harassment for speaking uncomfortable truths," according to an email from NAS Director of Communications Keli Carender. 

Wax will present a talk entitled "The Price of the Push for Equality of Result," after receiving her award. The speech will apparently expand on her recent op-ed, “The University of Denial,” which was published in the Wall Street Journal in March.

Wax first came under fire in August 2017 when she published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer advocating for a return to white bourgeois middle-class values. Since then, she has written several other op-eds on free speech and the stifling of controversial opinions. 

Since the publication of her initial op-ed at the beginning of the academic year, many student groups have campaigned for Wax's removal from the University or from teaching a mandatory first-year class.

After a 2017 video surfaced in which Wax said that she has never seen "a black student graduate in the top quarter of the [Penn Law School] class and rarely, rarely in the top half," Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger announced on March 13 that Wax will no longer be allowed to teach the mandatory first-year class. 

In an email, Ruger said Wax had "transgressed the policy that student grades are confidential" and "used her access to those Penn Law students who are required to be in her class to further her scholarly ends without students’ permission."

While Wax has faced a flurry of criticism for her comments regarding black students, some Penn alumni and law professors at other institutions have come to her defense, calling on the University to release data on the performance of students to determine if Wax's claims were inaccurate or not. 

Wax's talk after receiving Peter Shaw award will be the one of the few times that Wax has spoken publicly since the wave of controversy that followed her Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed. 

In October 2017, Wax spoke to a packed auditorium at the Law School in a talk entitled "Stop Saying That: Dissent and Disagreement at Penn Law.” The event, sponsored by the Penn Federalist Society, was limited to Penn Law students and instructors. 

The award ceremony and talk in New York will be hosted by First Things, a conservative religious journal which is published by the The Institute on Religion and Public Life. According to the First Things website, the organization aims "to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

According to Carender's email, the Peter Shaw Memorial Award is named after Peter Shaw, who was the chairman of the NAS Board of Director at the time of his death. Carender said in email that the award "is given to recognize exemplary writing on issues pertaining to higher education and American intellectual culture." 

The award has been given to academics every few years since 1996. Some of the previous winners include British theoretical physicist John Ellis and Princeton politics lecturer Russell Nieli, who has written a book arguing that affirmative action opposes the core values of American justice. 

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