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Penn law professor Amy Wax is under fire again for racist commentary. Photo: Son Nguyen

Philly politicians, organizers convene to demand Amy Wax be disciplined

The latest controversy surrounding the Penn law professor came after she expressed hateful anti-Asian views in a recent podcast appearance.

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Philadelphia leaders and politicians gathered outside Penn’s Carey Law School  on Thursday, Jan. 13 to condemn the anti-Asian remarks made by University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax.

City Councilmember David Oh, PA Senators. Anthony H. Williams and Sharif Street, President of the Philadelphia NAACP chapter Catherine Hicks, and others questioned why Wax remains at the university and urged Penn to revoke her tenure. 

In a conversation with Brown University professor Glenn Loury on the Glenn Show, Wax stated her opinion that the U.S. would be “better off” with fewer Asians and Asian immigration. 

When it comes to controversial remarks, this is not Wax’s offense.

During a 2019 panel on immigration, Wax conveyed a similar sentiment on immigration in the country, one that is heavily centered on white supremacist thinking. 

“Embracing cultural distance nationalism, means in effect taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites,” Wax said. 

According to Vox writer Zack Beauchamp, who attended the panel, Wax also claimed that immigrants are too loud and responsible for an increase in “litter.” 

Wax has also made derogatory comments towards the LGBTQ+ community and Black students at Penn, stating that she has never seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class. 

“Many of us stand in amazement that in 2022 we are still reflecting upon limited and bigoted views,” Williams said, adding that Wax’s comments are perpetuating a very dangerous tone and mindset that is making people “extremely fearful.”

As of now, the university hasn’t made any official plans to discipline the professor, which was a major issue for the speakers and the larger Asian-American community. 

As of Thursday, more than 2,400 Penn students, alumni, parents and supporters had signed a letter and petition calling for Wax to be suspended from her teaching position and for the University to “provide transparency” in its standards involving faculty conduct and tenure. 

“We understand the principles of academic freedom and freedom of thought that have previously been used to justify Wax’s continued presence at the School. Even so, the right to free speech and thought does not occur within a vacuum: speakers must be responsible for the consequences and outcomes of their speech, and Wax’s continued racism has received little repercussion,” student Apratim Vidyarthi wrote in the letter. 

Oh also mentioned free speech, questioning whether Wax really does have a right to express anti-Asian immigration sentiments as a professor of law. 

“The University responded by saying she has tenure. I would question that seriously,” Oh said. 

Leaders argued that Wax’s comments could result in fewer students of color applying to the institution. 

“It will have a chilling effect on African-American students who attend when you demean and demoralize them as well…the speech of this professor has a chilling effect.” Street said.

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania condemned Wax’s statement, saying that her comments are part of a “long line of anti-Asian hate and anti-immigrant sentiment” that has led to tragic results for their communities. 

“Asian-Americans were blamed for the economic decline in the labor market, just as they have been blamed for the lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Words have consequences, and Professor Wax’s reckless  comments should have no refuge in our community,” the organization wrote in a statement

The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), also made a statement regarding Wax's behavior, calling on the University to act quickly.

On behalf of the 23 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States, TAAF is calling on the university to take swift and meaningful action commensurate with its own stated goal to ‘stand strongly and proudly’ with the Asian American community and foster a campus community that is rich in our diversity, respect, and tolerance for all groups," TAAF wrote.

“We stand for tenure,” Williams said. “We do not stand for hate speech.”

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