Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger released an official statement denouncing the recently reported comments made by controversial Penn Law professor Amy Wax at the Edmund Burke Foundation’s National Conservatism conference last week.
Wax made headlines when her remarks supported an immigration policy favoring immigrants from Western countries over immigrants from non-Western countries. She argued for a position that America would be “better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites,” according to reports from Vox, The New York Times, and Buzzfeed.
In his posted response, Ruger stated Wax's remarks were at odds with Penn's values and policies and pledged to work with students to "heal" from the experience.
“At best, the reported remarks espouse a bigoted theory of white cultural and ethnic supremacy; at worst, they are racist," Ruger wrote.
Wax had emphasized in multiple emails to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the attention she had been getting after her remarks were from news articles instead of from a video or a full transcript of her speech. On Ruger's statement, she wrote, "He released a statement on the REPORTS on my conference remarks. He couldn’t be bothered to wait for a transcript or audio recording to be released."
At the time Ruger's statement was released, a partial transcript of her speech had been published by Vox’s journalist Zack Beauchamp, who attended and reported on her remarks at the conference. The Federalist released a complete transcript of Wax's remarks on July 26.
In his statement, Ruger also wrote that Penn Law has hired 10 tenured or tenure-track professors since 2016, half of whom are people of color and more than half of whom are women. Ruger said Penn Law will have “the most diverse and accomplished student body in the history of the Law School" with the induction of the Juris Doctorate Class of 2022 and Master of Laws Class of 2020.
Ruger wrote in an email to The DP that supporting a diverse student body and faculty is one of Penn Law's "highest institutional priorities." He added Penn Law will share “concrete results and structural changes that have resulted from these sustained efforts” with students and alumni in the weeks leading up to the start of the academic year.
Students have criticized Wax’s remarks and started petitions urging the University to fire or relieve Wax of all teaching duties. A statement from the Penn's Latinx Law Students Association condemning Amy Wax's statements as "racist" and calling on Penn to relieve her of teaching duties has garnered more than 1800 signatures.
“I know these statements by Professor Wax have caused pain and outrage to many in the Penn community,” Ruger wrote in the statement. “My colleagues and I pledge to work with you so that together we can heal, and learn from this experience and each other.”
In response to students and alumni who raised concerns about Wax's remarks, Ruger said he is "grateful to work together" with those who criticize and challenge Penn Law to uphold its mission.
“Our diversity makes us a better law school,” Ruger said.
The firestorm surrounding Wax's comments on race began after she wrote an op-ed in Aug. 2017 arguing for a return to the 1950s American cultural norms. In an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian afterwards, Wax said white, Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior. Her comments caused backlash from students and faculty, some of whom drafted a petition signed by 33 Penn Law professors "categorically reject[ing]" her claims.
Wax returned to a spotlight when she claimed she has never seen a black Penn Law student graduate in the top quarter of their class in a video from fall 2017. Days after the video resurfaced, Ruger announced on March 13, 2018 that Wax would no longer be allowed to teach a mandatory first-year course for breaking school policy by disclosing student grades.
In a February 2018 op-ed, Wax wrote that Ruger asked her to take a leave for the next school year after her controversial publications. The discussion of the sabbatical, a form of leave of absence, was routine for tenured faculty, Penn Law spokesperson Steven Barnes said at the time. Wax has scheduled to take her sabbatical for the upcoming school year, Penn spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy confirmed.
Editor's Note: The article has been updated to reflect that a complete transcript of Wax's remarks was published by The Federalist.