Tenured Penn Law professor Amy Wax reiterated racist remarks against Asian and Black Americans, retaliating against the University's recent decision to initiate sanctions against her.
Wax, who has worked at Penn for two decades, decried the current state of higher education and the conservative political movement in the United States. This is not the first time Wax has made headlines for discriminatory rhetoric, as her anti-Asian remarks earlier this month ignited an online firestorm and strong reactions from the University community and local politicians.
"Given the realities of different rates of crime, different average IQs, people have to accept without apology that Blacks are not going to be evenly distributed throughout all occupations. They're just not, and that’s not a problem. That’s not due to racism," Wax said in an interview with Concordia University professor Gad Saad on Jan. 24.
"Groups have different levels of ability, demonstrated ability, different competencies," Wax claimed falsely. In 2018, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger barred Wax from teaching mandatory first-year law courses after she received criticism for saying she has never seen a Black Penn Law student graduate in the top quarter of their class — which Ruger said was false.
The interview follows Ruger's initiation of a formal faculty review to investigate and determine whether Wax’s public conduct has impacted her classroom teaching. Ruger wrote in the Jan. 18 announcement that Wax’s conduct has led to multiple complaints from University community members since at least 2017, which have cited Wax’s comments as a “cumulative and increasing” promotion of white supremacy.
But Wax told Saad that she is the “only person” Penn has left on its faculty that her students “can talk to and go to for advice.” She said she does not want to give the University “the satisfaction” of her resignation.
“My case is on some level not about me. I’m just roadkill, I’m a casualty in the culture wars,” Wax told Saad, whose YouTube channel has more than 230,000 subscribers. “What I see being said and done with respect to me is truly alarming. It is a total repudiation of the very concept of academic freedom.”
During the interview with Saad, Wax labeled the curriculum at Penn Law and other law schools as having been “propagandized” by diversity, equity, and inclusion supervisors and political interests, which she claimed has hurt her own students’ knowledge of conservative thought and legal concepts over the years. In 2019, Ruger established the Office of Inclusion and Engagement at Penn Law and announced several new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion at the law school, including the formation of a student advisory board, alumni advisory board, and a newly appointed associate dean for inclusion and engagement.
“I have seen my students change over even 10 to 15 to 20 to 30 years… They have become these cowed, benighted sheeples. It’s just unbelievable,” Wax said of her Penn Law students. “So not only are they thoroughly intimidated as they should be, but they are ignorant.”
Ruger’s decision to launch the sanctions process against Wax followed a petition, created by Penn Law third year Apratim Vidyarthi and other law students, calling for Wax’s suspension and reformation of the University's tenure policy. The petition, which has since garnered more than 2,500 signatures, was sparked by Wax’s recent claim that "the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration."
Wax is teaching two courses this semester, LAW 672: "Remedies" and LAW 956: "Conservative Political and Legal Thought." LAW 956 is the only course Penn Law currently offers on conservative legal thought, Vidyarthi previously told the DP.
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy and Penn Law spokesperson Rebecca Anderson both wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian that they would withhold public comment on the controversy until the faculty review process of Wax has concluded, in adherence to University policy.
According to Penn’s procedure governing sanctions taken against a faculty member, the Faculty Senate — which serves as the representative voice for full-time teaching faculty — will create a board of five people who will both hear the charges and the defense and vote on the implementation of sanctions. If this board finds Wax guilty of violating the University’s behavioral standards, Wax potentially faces major or minor sanctions, ranging from suspension to a letter of reprimand.
The Philadelphia City Council also recently criticized Wax for these claims, and urged Penn to review her role within the University.
On the other hand, the Academic Freedom Alliance addressed a letter on Jan. 18 to Penn President Amy Gutmann arguing that Wax should not face formal consequences for her controversial comments. Princeton University professor Keith Whittington, who serves as chair of AFA’s Academic Committee, told the DP he found it “disturbing” that Penn responded to pressure from students and lawmakers by invoking the formal sanctions process against Wax.
“They've been trying to fire me for years and they’re still trying. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction,” Wax told Saad during the interview. A petition that was launched three years ago calling on Ruger to fire Wax has now received more than 76,000 signatures.
“I come from a barely middle class family, and for me to have worked so hard, to be earning the money that I do and have the position that I have and things like library privileges – which sounds silly, but it means a lot to me – I am not going to give that up without a fight," Wax said. "This is just nuts and bolts, you know, I’ve worked too hard to get where I am. Why would I give it up?”