The University of Pennsylvania’s law school is looking to initiate a process to sanction tenured law professor Amy Wax for her past racist speech, including the anti-Asian and immigration comments she made in December 2021.
Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Ted Ruger announced on Tuesday that he would organize a faculty review to determine the possible actions that needed to be taken against Wax, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Wax could receive a punishment ranging from a minor sanction, such as a letter of reprimand, to a suspension or termination of employment.
“Her conduct has generated multiple complaints from members of our community citing the impact of pervasive and recurring vitriol and promotion of white supremacy as cumulative and increasing,” Ruger, who would serve as the complainant throughout the faculty review process, said in a statement. “The complaints assert that it is impossible for students to take classes from her without a reasonable belief that they are being treated with discriminatory animus.”
Ruger also added that Wax “has exploited her faculty access to confidential information about students in ostensible support of her inaccurate statements.”.
In 2018, Wax reportedly also commented on a podcast about Black students’ academic ability and how she had never seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class and rarely in the top half. Her comment at the time resulted in her being banned from teaching first-year courses; however, UPenn did not fire her, citing academic freedom.
More recently, in December of last year, Wax made a guest appearance on “The Glenn Show” (“TGS”) podcast in which she said, “The United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.”
“I’m pleased that Penn and the law school and the faculty are acknowledging that the professor at Penn who has been spewing hate for a long time has now frankly gone beyond her professional boundaries,” State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D-PA) said of Ruger’s decision.
Meanwhile, several law students issued a statement on Tuesday saying Ruger’s announcement was “a good first step” and that they are hoping Wax will receive a major sanction. The group also called on the university to form a committee that more closely reevaluates its tenure process.
“We will continue to pressure the university (and not just the Law School) to be transparent about this process, including informing students of the involved parties, the timeline, and what sanctions are being proposed,” the group said in a statement.
Academic Freedom Alliance, a non-profit organization whose main goal is to protect the rights of faculty members in colleges and universities, came to Wax’s defense following the controversy. In a Jan. 16 letter, the group said that the “appropriate action” for the university to take would be to “publicly reaffirm the free speech rights of the members of its faculty,” Reuters reported.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-profit bipartisan organization, also defended Wax’s comments in a statement, saying, “Predictions that a faculty member’s views mean they will treat a student differently are not sufficient to justify eroding expressive rights.”
It remains unclear how long the process to sanction Wax would take, but the university handbook reportedly dictates that the issue should be dealt with “fairly and expeditiously.”