Last week, The Daily Pennsylvanian released a column by David Shapiro, the lawyer representing Penn Law Professor Amy Wax. In that piece, Shapiro defended Wax’s past and claimed that President Liz Magill’s response to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival exposed Penn’s far-left political bias.
Shapiro’s main grievance stems from a statement made last year by the former Dean of Penn Carey Law, Theodore Ruger, which launched an investigation into some of Wax’s actions. Some of the allegations against her noted in that document include:
- Telling a Black student, Lauren O’Garro Moore, (L ‘12) that the only reason she was earning an Ivy League degree was because of affirmative action.
- Stating that same-sex couples are unfit to raise children.
- Explaining that Black people have “different average IQs” than other races.
- Claiming that during her time at Penn, no Black students graduated in the top quarter of their class. This was confirmed to be patently false.
- Proposing that women are “less intellectual than men,” among other misogynistic comments.
- Mocking her students’ “foreign-sounding” names and insinuating that they are un-American.
- Claiming that Asians have no sense of “liberty” and that “the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.”
More recently, Wax has received backlash for inviting Jared Taylor, an outspoken white supremacist and founder of American Renaissance, a neo-nazi extremist publication, to speak at a mandatory lecture for her “LAW 9560: Conservative Political and Legal Thought” course. This was not an academic endeavor. Taylor is not a lawyer, and there is little evidence that his outwardly discriminatory speech should be necessary for the course. His eugenicist ideas should not be welcomed on campus. The course syllabus has Taylor’s visit scheduled for Nov. 28.
Despite all of this, Shapiro went as far as to say that any actions taken against Wax are anti-semitic, since she is a Jewish, conservative woman. However, Wax also has made some egregiously antisemitic statements herself, including a reference to Ashkenazi Jews “diluting” their brand by “intermarrying.” Additionally, Wax’s guest speaker Jared Taylor has been recognized by the Anti-Defamation League as a figure who uses academic platforms to promote racism and antisemitism.
I think it’s perfectly clear that somebody this openly bigoted should have no place to teach at Penn. Wax should not be given a platform to spew inflammatory rhetoric. Any investigations into her actions should result in an appropriate penalty. If the allegations put forth by former Dean Ruger are proven true, as Wax indicated they may be, then there is no reason to maintain her tenure.
Shapiro argues that if Penn chooses to censor her hateful speech, our administration is admitting to a political bias in academic freedom since they did little in the aftermath of Palestine Writes. After all, Amy Wax is just an outspoken conservative woman who criticizes the idea of systemic racism, right? I would argue otherwise.
Amy Wax’s case has almost nothing to do with academic freedom. Telling Black students that they are unworthy of their education is not an academic exploration. Alongside other examples of off-handed comments in class, this situation is reason enough to end Wax’s tenure at Penn. There is no situation in which discriminatory, interpersonal attacks could be construed as a protected right under academic freedom. At this point, it isn’t about controversial research and discussion topics; it’s about blatant prejudice.
Yet, Shapiro will argue that any claims against Wax are far-left political attacks. This assumption presents a clear contradiction: they argue that a political bias in academia is wrong, while Amy Wax herself is institutionalizing radically discriminatory ideas and using her position to advance a conservative agenda. Shapiro describes the sanctions against Wax as a “crusade.” To me, maintaining someone’s tenure and granting them teaching awards does not equate to a crusade against them.
As a Penn student, I am embarrassed by Wax’s presence on our campus. Weaponizing our currently contentious political climate to justify racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and sexism is evil. It’s time for university administrators to hold Amy Wax accountable.
JACK LAKIS is a College first year studying Political Science from Kennesaw, GA. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.