Penn Law professor Amy Wax sparked extensive criticism last year after she co-wrote a contentious editorial promoting bourgeois cultural values. Now, she's back in the spotlight with the publication of another op-ed – this time in the Wall Street Journal – alleging that Penn Law has asked her to step aside in the face of ongoing backlash.
In August 2017, Wax set campus abuzz with the publication of a controversial op-ed where she, and professor Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law, claimed that "not all cultures are created equal."
She later said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian that she thinks Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior.
"I don't shrink from the word 'superior,'" she said. “Everyone wants to come to the countries that exemplify" these values. "Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.”
After widespread pushback from fellow legal professors, students, and alumni, Wax defended her position several times, including at a talk sponsored by the Federalist Society in October 2017 where she openly criticized her colleagues' treatment of academic discourse.
In her latest editorial in the Journal, entitled "What Can't Be Debated on Campus," Wax railed against the ostensible lack of "civil discourse" on college campuses across the United States.
"The reaction to [her Aug. 9 op-ed] raised the question of how unorthodox opinions should be dealt with in academia — and in American society at large," she wrote. "The proper response would be to engage in reasoned debate — to attempt to explain, using logic, evidence, facts and substantive arguments, why those opinions are wrong."
She accused many of her detractors, including 33 of her Penn law colleagues who published a critical open letter in the DP, of using "unreasoned speech" in attacking her arguments.
"Offense and upset go with the territory; they are part and parcel of an open society. We should be teaching our young people to get used to these things, but instead we are teaching them the opposite," Wax wrote. "Disliking, avoiding and shunning people who don’t share our politics is not good for our country. We live together, and we need to solve our problems together."
She also alleged that Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger asked her "to take a leave of absence next year and to cease teaching a mandatory first-year course."
A Penn spokesperson said Wax is still a member of Penn Law faculty.
“Prof. Wax is a valued member of our faculty. Nothing has changed in her status, and she will be teaching in the fall,” Penn Law spokesperson Steven Barnes said in a statement.
Many students and legal groups have previously questioned Wax's role as a professor of a required first-year course on Civil Procedure following the release of her August editorial.
"The reason that 'nothing has changed' in my status is that I refused the Dean’s request," Wax wrote in an email to the DP.
According to Penn InTouch, Wax is currently teaching two courses this semester: a legal lecture entitled "Remedies" and a seminar called "Conservative Political and Legal Thought."
"[Ruger] explained that he was getting 'pressure' to banish me for my unpopular views and hoped that my departure would quell the controversy," Wax wrote. "When I suggested that it was his job as a leader to resist such illiberal demands, he explained that he is a 'pluralistic dean' who must listen to and accommodate 'all sides.'"
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