Amy Wax refuted allegations regarding her controversial conduct and sought support from professors at an event with a national free speech group.
On April 13 at 3 p.m., the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression hosted the webinar, "Amy Wax and the Limits of Academic Freedom." At the webinar, Wax — a tenured University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School professor who is the subject of ongoing disciplinary proceedings — said she would take Penn to court if she is punished, calling the University "ruthless" and "unprincipled."
FIRE's director of faculty outreach Komi Frey moderated the webinar. Frey gave Wax 20 minutes to explain her case at Penn and defend herself against allegations of her conduct in the classroom. Faculty who attended were also able to ask questions of Wax. Frey wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian that 152 faculty members attended the event, including 15 people who registered with Penn emails.
While explaining her case, Wax denied ever making certain statements that Penn alleges she made in the classroom — and admitted to making other statements, but argued they did not merit punishment. She painted these allegations as demonstrating that Penn was seeking to sanction her because of her political views and blunt commentary.
For instance, she denied that she ever told a Black Penn Carey Law student that she was only a double Ivy because of affirmative action.
"There was no other record of a complaint of a personal remark like that, that I ever made to a student in my 30 years of teaching," Wax claimed. "I deny that I ever made such a remark. I just don't talk that way unless students consult me directly in a personal way — and they do that sometimes. I just don't make such remarks."
However, 2012 Penn Carey Law graduate Lauren O'Garro-Moore told the DP in September that Wax made that comment to her during the second semester of her first year of law school, during a reception following an event hosted by the Penn Black Law Students Association.
At the webinar, Wax later told faculty that, if applicants to college were only evaluated on a merit-based, race-blind basis, the number of Black students would be "minuscule."
In the webinar, Wax claimed that underrepresented minorities, and Black people specifically, "lag behind in academic achievement, and that's why we need an extra thumb on the scale, calling it "highly probable" that minority students get accepted into Ivy League universities because of affirmative action.
She also admitted that she criticized same-sex relationships on an academic panel where Penn Carey Law professor Tobias Barrington Wolff, who is openly gay, was present. She said that it was fair for her to make such claims in an academic setting and added that same-sex couples using surrogacy to have children was "extramarital" and "artificial."
Wax also admitted that she said, "finally, an American" after she listened to a group of students with "exotic" names introduce themselves.
“American universities should primarily educate American citizens," Wax told the audience.
Wax claimed that many of the allegations she is facing did not occur in the classroom, where she said professors should be held to a higher standard than their public commentary. However, Penn has claimed that, in the classroom, Wax said that Mexican men have a higher likelihood of assaulting women and that gay couples were not fit to raise children.
Beyond the allegations that are at the heart of Penn's disciplinary proceedings, Wax was questioned by around a dozen professors on a variety of issues, where her responses included attacking affirmative action, calling Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida a "hero," and calling Penn an "ominous" outlier in how it has handled free speech controversies compared to other universities.
Penn Carey Law Dean Ted Ruger started a faculty investigation of Wax in January 2022 and since then has served as the University's prosecutor in the proceedings that are taking place. Ruger began the faculty investigation after years of inflammatory remarks made by Wax.
The proceedings are ongoing, although a hearing date had not been set as of March 23. Wax filed a counter-complaint against Ruger in January and said she intends to sue Penn if she receives a punishment, which could range from a letter of reprimand to termination.