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Penn Law professor Amy Wax. Credit: Son Nguyen , Jesse Zhang

In 2022, a conflict that had been bubbling at Penn for years reached a new level of controversy. Tenured Penn Carey Law School professor Amy Wax — a self-described “race realist” — drew national outcry at the start of the year after making racist remarks on a podcast. 

Wax has a years-long history of making racist, xenophobic, and homophobic comments, but faced renewed calls for Penn Carey Law and University action in response. A formal faculty investigation ultimately began a series of twists and turns throughout the year. 

Jan. 5 — A petition calling on Penn to suspend Wax and reform the University's tenure policy garnered more than 800 signatures, ignited by Wax's scrutinized claims that "the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration." 

Jan. 17 — Penn Carey Law announced that it was considering sanctions against Wax after a letter from the Philadelphia City Council urged Penn to review her role within the University.

Jan. 18 — Penn Carey Law Dean Ted Ruger initiated the University sanctions process against Amy Wax.

In a statement, Ruger wrote that complaints from Penn community members about Wax motivated his decision to initiate the sanctions process. According to the complaints, Wax’s “cumulative and increasing” promotion of white supremacy and discriminatory beliefs made it difficult to take classes from her. 

Jan. 24 — Wax reiterated racist remarks against Asian and Black Americans, retaliating against the University's decision to initiate sanctions against her. Wax, who has worked at Penn for two decades, said that it was "not a problem" that Black people are not "evenly distributed throughout all occupations."

Feb. 16 — While preparing its case for a Faculty Senate hearing against Wax, Penn Carey Law announced it would take several steps to bolster equity and inclusion, including a 68% increase in financial aid and a new website to track school-wide diversity.

Feb. 28 — Penn’s Undergraduate Assembly and three other student organizations passed a resolution calling for the termination of Wax on the basis of her repeated promotion of white supremacist ideology. 

April 8 — Wax reignited controversy on national television, claiming that Black Americans and “non-Western groups” are resentful towards "Western people" in an interview with Fox News television personality Tucker Carlson on his show “Tucker Carlson Today."

June 23 — In a 12-page report, Ruger requested that the Faculty Senate impose a “major sanction” against Wax, an action that brought the University closer to potentially terminating the controversial academic.

Ruger argued that Wax’s bigoted public statements and her behavior on campus and inside the classroom have violated multiple University standards for faculty, citing numerous student and faculty accounts of the conduct that he believed warranted disciplinary action. 

Aug. 31 — Wax's legal team submitted a memorandum seeking the delay of the ongoing University disciplinary proceedings against her, citing a "disabled state" from ongoing cancer treatment.

Dec. 5 — As the University's disciplinary proceedings against Wax neared their second year, an analysis conducted by the Daily Pennsylvanian found that a significantly lower number of students are taking her classes compared to other seminars offered by Penn Carey Law. 

Check out the rest of the DP’s Year in Review content here.