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The UA called on “the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees to terminate Amy Wax’s tenured status and any other affiliations with the University" in the resolution. Credit: Audrey Tirtaguna

The Undergraduate Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling on the University of Pennsylvania to fire controversial Penn Law professor Amy Wax for violating University policy. 

In addition to calling on the Penn Board of Trustees to terminate Amy Wax’s tenured status and any other affiliations with the University, the resolution also demands that Penn require annual sensitivity training for all employees. After passing on Oct. 6 by a vote of 27-0, the UA is now preparing to send the resolution to Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett next week. 

The UA began reaching out to graduate student organizations this past weekend to co-sign the resolution, UA President and College senior Natasha Menon said. She hopes the graduate student organizations will respond and be added to the resolution as co-signers by Oct. 22. The resolution will be formally submitted to University administrators following the UA meeting that day, Menon said.

Wax was denounced by Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger this summer after her comments at a conservative conference in July 2019. Wax argued that cultural distance nationalism, a view that the United States would be “better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites,” deserved more discussion. 

In August 2017, Wax called Anglo-Protestant cultural norms superior, and in March 2018, she claimed she had never seen a black Penn Law student graduate in the top quarter of their class. After students and alumni created a petition against Wax for her insensitive remarks, Ruger barred her from teaching mandatory first-year law courses.

The UA alleges that Wax’s comments violate a principle of the University’s Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators. The group highlighted Section II.E.16. Procedure Governing Sanctions Taken Against Members of the Faculty, which states that faculty are barred from engaging in “discrimination on the basis of irrelevant characteristics.”

“The University shouldn’t be associated with someone who has made such hateful and marginalizing statements,” Menon said.

The resolution was co-signed by several cultural groups, including the Asian Pacific Student Coalition; the Assembly of International Students; Lambda Alliance; Latinx Coalition; Penn Association for Gender Equity; Programs for Religious, Interfaith, and Spiritual Matters; UMOJA; and the United Minorities Council.

It was authored by Menon; the UA Dining, Housing, and Transit Committee Director and College and Wharton senior Maria Curry; UA representative and College senior Elena Hoffman; and UA Communications Director and College and Wharton sophomore Nikhil Gupta.

Wax did not respond to request for comment on the resolution.

In the second provision, the UA urged Penn to "implement mandatory sensitivity training workshops" for all faculty and staff.

"These workshops should cover topics including, but not limited to, respect for students’ diverse backgrounds, professionalism when interacting with students, and bias combating," the resolution stated.

Menon said the purpose of the second provision was to show that this is “not about one person, but about a culture.” The next step will be to bring the resolution to the UA Steering meeting on Oct. 22 for a vote to show “greater student body support for the resolution,” as well as reaching out to graduate student groups to co-sign, she said. UA Steering meetings consist of the UA and representatives from 41 large student organizations.

After the UA garners more support from student groups, Menon said the resolution will be emailed to Penn administration. If the UA receives a negative response from University administration, Menon said the UA will not be deterred, and they will work with graduate student organizations to continue pushing for Wax’s termination.

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