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Guest Columnist Rafael Alvarez Febo criticizes Penn's response to Amy Wax's treatment of Black and brown students. Credit: Jesse Zhang

As a graduating Penn student, I find the institution's handling of Amy Wax's abhorrent behavior to be troubling, and a larger symptom of systemic dereliction of duty. 

The reality is that Wax has shown, time and time again, a disdain for Black and brown students in a way that puts the institution's credibility in danger. No Black or brown student aspiring to become a legal professional should have to deal with an institution that harbors individuals who hide their hate speech as free speech. At the risk of feeding into the stereotypes of minority exceptionalism, multiple United States Supreme Court justices and judges at every level of government are and have been Black and brown, showing that the color of one's skin has little to do with academic ability. 

The legal field suffers a huge loss from having a lack of Black and brown lawyers to serve people, especially because at some point, all individuals will need legal assistance that is culturally relevant and in their language. According to a 2022 publication by the American Bar Association, 81% of active lawyers in the 26 states recorded are white, a decrease from 88% in 2012. 5% are Black, the same as in 2012. 5% are Asian, an increase from 2%. 6% are Hispanic, an increase from 3%. These numbers are dismal at best, illustrating that the legal field is lacking a critical portion of the general population. 

The practice is based on mastery of the law as a foundation; however, delivering for your client regardless of their background is essential, and adds a much-needed human element to the attorney-client relationship. Often, Black and brown individuals are left with limited options for legal assistance, and institutions who protect hate speech will never remedy this problem. Wax's behavior is antithetical to that of a scholar: Using outdated and racist generalizations to characterize people she is tasked with teaching could never lead to a productive learning environment. The world has changed, laws have changed, and if Penn wishes to educate the leaders of tomorrow, Wax can no longer cast her racist shadow on such an illustrious institution. 

One person can have an irrefutably negative impact on the University’s reputation because the institution doesn’t have the courage to part ways with them. Penn has chosen a protracted process where students and potential applicants can be left with a tarnished view of the University that we fought so hard to be accepted into. 

In contrast, students and the entire American public witnessed the swift disciplinary actions towards former Penn President Liz Magill for her handling of alleged antisemitism on campus. While Magill's response to student and donor grievances regarding protests left concerned parties wanting more accountability, and her congressional performance left her vulnerable to attack, the University moved quickly at the behest of those wealthy donors who capitalized on a political moment to pressure Magill into action and subsequent resignation. 

Black and brown students do not have the institutional power of donor networks nor other means to elevate the case for the dismissal of Wax. Many of them are navigating Penn and universities like it for the first time. They have limited legacy experience and likely spend their time working to maintain the academic rigor and financial burden that comes with obtaining an Ivy League education. 

I felt compelled to write this because often, the world of journalism is dominated by people who do not see this case of obvious, tepid discipline against an abhorrently racist faculty member as important to report. I understand that The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily Pennsylvanian have covered this at length, but the question still remains: Why is Wax still a Penn employee? Wax must be dismissed from her position as professor for Penn. I call on the student body to speak clearly and let our administration know that hate speech is not free speech, and that Black and brown students bring a value to the Penn community that rips apart the notions of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. We are Penn, we wear the red and blue with pride, and no one person on staff can question our academic rigor and spirit. 

RAFAEL ÁLVAREZ FEBO is a LPS student studying literature, culture, and traditions from Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. His email is