As the University's disciplinary proceedings against Penn Carey Law School professor Amy Wax continue, her classes are seeing lower student enrollment.
An analysis by The Daily Pennsylvanian found that, for at least six semesters, seminars taught by Wax have seen a below-average enrollment compared to all seminars offered by Penn Carey Law. This semester, just two out of a maximum 14 students registered for Wax's LAW 9560: "Conservative Political and Legal Thought" — an enrollment rate of 14.3%.
LAW 9560 was the least enrolled class out of all Penn Carey Law seminars this fall, except for two other classes which had zero registrants and were canceled — including Wax's LAW 9250: "Freedom, Responsibility and Neuroscience."
Penn Carey Law has offered around 50 seminars per semester since at least fall 2019, with those classes having an average maximum enrollment of 15 students. While the average enrollment rate for these courses has hovered between 70% and 90% each semester, Wax's courses have been approximately 40% full, according to the available data. The data includes spring 2023, whose enrollment numbers are not final.
The numbers tell a similar story with the other class Wax has taught since at least spring 2020: LAW 672: "Remedies," a class limited to upper-level students. Just five students enrolled in the course during the spring 2022 semester, despite having a limit of 110 students — only 4.5% full. The other remedies course offered by Penn Carey Law that semester had full enrollment.
Wax and a spokesperson for Penn Carey Law did not respond to a request for comment.
The declining enrollment seen in Wax's courses follows a year of national controversy surrounding the tenured professor. Wax — a self-described “race realist” who has a years-long history of stirring national controversy by making racist, xenophobic, and homophobic remarks on podcasts and national television — is currently under a faculty investigation that Penn Carey Law Dean Ted Ruger initiated in January.
In adherence to the formal University procedure for seeking disciplinary action against tenured faculty, Ruger has charged Wax with violating University standards and has recommended that the Faculty Senate impose a “major sanction” against her, which could result in the professor being stripped of her tenure protection, or fired.
After Wax's legal team submitted a memorandum in late August requesting that the proceedings be delayed due to Wax's cancer treatment, Penn Carey Law told the DP that the University process was still underway. However, one witness named in Ruger's June report to the Faculty Senate — 2012 Penn Law graduate Lauren O’Garro-Moore — wrote to the DP that, as of Dec. 4, she has not been contacted by anyone to date regarding upcoming hearings or proceedings.
Wax has spoken about her course offerings and criticized Penn Carey Law students for what she sees as persuading Ruger to pursue sanctions against her in numerous appearances on a variety of conservative talk shows and podcasts.
"The students are basically little tyrants," Wax told podcast host Alex Kaschuta in a Nov. 23 episode of her podcast "Subversive." "I mean, they have learned to be big bullies because the system empowers them, they have a megaphone on the internet and in the media, they can gin up any sort of condemnation you can imagine, and those events and labels and gestures stick, they really do stick."
Wax has also expressed concern about the political and moral attitudes that she believes students are adopting as they are educated at Penn Carey Law. For example, Wax told Kaschuta that it was "alarming" that some of her female students voiced that getting married or having children was "somehow a sign of weakness."
Later in the conversation, Wax went on to say that "being racist is an honorific," describing people who are called racists as people who "notice reality." She said she encourages her students to adopt this behavior.
"That’s an occasion for praise and admiration," Wax said. "Being called a reactionary, I tell my students if you’re called a reactionary, you should be proud. There are ways in which we would do well to react and go back to the way things used to be done."
While Wax has seen fewer students enroll in her courses on average over the past semesters, she has also taught fewer courses since 2018. After students and alumni responded with outrage to a video of Wax saying she had never seen a black Penn Law student graduate in the top quarter of their class, Ruger announced that Wax would no longer be allowed to teach a mandatory first-year course. Wax has repeatedly said that her claim was true, but Ruger has said it is inaccurate.
In Ruger's report to the Faculty Senate, 2022 Penn Carey Law graduate Apratim Vidyarthi is quoted as having said that some of his peers were "intrigued" by the ideas of Wax's "Conservative Political and Legal Thought Class," but did not want to "take the risk of being treated unfairly."
To conduct the course enrollment analysis, the DP used advance registration scheduler data from the Penn Carey Law registrar website for every semester between fall 2019 and spring 2022. The DP also used Path@Penn enrollment numbers to analyze data from the fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters, the latter for which registration is still underway.