On Jan. 16, tenured Penn Carey Law School professor Amy Wax filed a grievance against Penn Carey Law Dean Ted Ruger. The grievance filing and a separate letter obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian list some of the key faculty members and committees who are connected to the disciplinary proceedings involving Wax.
The letter reveals the identities of the five professors who have been elected to serve on a hearing board that will investigate Wax's case and may decide to impose a major sanction on Wax, such as termination.
The Hearing Board serves “both an investigative and deliberative function,” according to Penn’s Faculty Handbook. The board decides whether to recommend a major sanction and then notifies the president of Penn, who typically accepts the recommendation.
The DP examined the key players in the Wax proceedings, which include eight faculty members whose appointments span multiple schools at Penn. The confidentiality policy underpinning the proceedings has generally prohibited faculty members who are involved from commenting.
The Amy Wax Hearing Board
Harvey Rubin is a professor at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine who teaches in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. Rubin has founded several institutions dedicated to the combat of infectious diseases. He declined a request for comment.
English professor Emily Steiner is a noted medievalist whose research focuses on English literature of the 14th and 15th centuries. She received the Mary F. Lindback Teaching Award in 2016, the same award that Wax received in 2015. Steiner did not respond to a request for comment.
Sigal Ben-Porath has been a professor at Penn’s Graduate School of Education since 2004. Ben-Porath is also the former chair of Penn’s Committee on Open Expression and the author of the 2017 book "Free Speech on Campus." Her recent book is titled “Cancel Wars: How Universities Can Foster Free Speech, Promote Inclusion, and Renew Democracy.”
"When some members of the campus community are effectively barred from speaking, when they avoid speaking their minds for fear of humiliation or ridicule, or when they do not feel that they belong or that they are appreciated, free speech is limited just as much as it can be limited by censorship," Ben-Porath wrote in "Free Speech on Campus."
Ben-Porath declined the DP’s request for comment.
Camille Z. Charles
Camille Z. Charles is the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences. She holds postings in the Department of Sociology and the GSE, and is the director of Penn’s Center for Africana Studies.
Charles is known for conducting the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshman, designed to test “several competing theories of minority underperformance in college” — a frequent topic of Prof. Wax’s controversial commentary.
Charles declined the DP’s request for comment.
Beth Simmons is a political scientist who serves on the faculty of Penn Carey Law, fulfilling a University stipulation that one member of the Hearing Board is a faculty member at Wax's school. Before coming to Penn in 2016, she presided over the International Studies Association and directed Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Simmons declined to comment.
The Faculty Senate
The Faculty Senate has two divisions: the Senate Executive Committee and a set of standing committees which investigate matters important to the administration. Separate from these committees, Ruger requested that the Faculty Senate impose a “major sanction” against Wax and requested that the Faculty Senate convene a hearing board to conduct a full review of Wax’s conduct.
Wax's lawyer latest memo to the Faculty Senate alleges that Ruger declined Wax's request to postpone the disciplinary proceedings this fall while she was battling cancer.
Child Development professor Vivian S. Gadsden is the chair of the Faculty Senate. Her research focuses on cultural and social factors that affect learning and literacy, intergenerational and cross-cultural learning.
Gadsden received Ruger’s 12-page report on June 23 listing the conduct that he believed merited major sanctions. She serves in a presidial role in the proceedings. She also elected the five Hearing Board members.
Faculty Grievance Commission
The Faculty Grievance Commission consists of a panel of three members who are in charge of evaluating grievances and initiating the appropriate follow-up procedure. The Commission will evaluate the merits of the grievance filed by Wax.
Sarah Hope Kagan
Penn School of Nursing professor Sarah Hope Kagan is the chair of the Faculty Grievance Commission. Her research focuses on understanding the patient’s point of view in order to provide enhanced care and improve clinical knowledge. Kagan declined a request to comment.
Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility
The Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility is made up of nine faculty members and one of the tri-chairs of the Faculty Senate. SCAFR works with Penn's 12 schools to decide what to do if someone claims there has been a violation of academic freedom. They can make related investigations, reports, and recommendations on any of these related matters.
In her grievance filing, Wax requested that her case be evaluated by the Faculty Grievance Commission and SCAFR, which handles matters that the Commission determines are related to academic freedom.
Medicinal School professor Raina Merchant is the SCAFR chair. Her areas of expertise are disease prevention and health promotion, health care disparities, racism, and the connection between digital health and social media.