Photo: University of Pennsylvania
Longtime Penn law professor Amy Wax could face sanctions for her latest racist comments. Photo: University of Pennsylvania

Amy Wax could face sanctions as Penn Law initiates review process

Wax’s most recent controversy surrounds comments she made about the U.S. needing fewer Asians in a podcast appearance.


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The University of Pennsylvania’s law school dean announced on Tuesday, Jan. 18 that he would initiate a process that may lead to consequences for long-time law professor Amy Wax over racist comments.

In an email to the law school community, first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dean Ruger said he would appeal to a faculty review process, which must occur before any major or minor action can be taken.

The process, which is spelled out in Penn’s faculty handbook, covers the issuing of minor sanctions such as a letter of reprimand, or convening a faculty hearing board to review charges for major sanctions like suspension or termination of employment. 

Ruger said he will serve as the complainant in the matter and draw on criticism he has received over the years about Wax. The law professor’s conduct has generated “multiple complaints” citing the impact of repeated harsh language and the promotion of white supremacy. 

“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 wrote. 

In recent years, the 68-year-old tenured professor who has worked at the university for 20 years, has consistently enraged students with her remarks, first questioning the academic ability of Black students and most recently stating her view that the county would be better off with fewer Asians. 

Penn has condemned her statements and Wax can now only teach small elective courses, instead of mandatory courses, but the institution has cited academic freedom as a reason for not firing her. 

But Wax’s racist speech is becoming more intense and harmful, and Ruger is ready to invoke the review process. 

“These complaints clearly call for a process that can fairly consider claims, for example, that her conduct is having an adverse and discernable impact on her teaching and classroom activities,” he said. 

Earlier this month, a group of law school students presented a petition to Penn with about 2,500 signatures, urging the university to launch an investigation into Wax, whom they claim is unfit to teach and has violated behavioral standards. The group is also asking for the university to re-evaluate its tenure process so that this kind of conduct can be addressed more effectively.

“She is discriminating overtly or explicitly against students and that’s not part of academic freedom. ... It’s actually actively harming other people’s legal education and making them feel uncomfortable, undesired and unwanted or unheard,” Apratim Vidyarthi, 28, a third-year Penn law student from the San Jose area, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On Thursday, Jan. 13, a group of state lawmakers and City Council members also called on Penn to revoke Wax’s tenure. In a letter to Penn, City Council members asked the university to begin a review of Wax’s position and role, saying that her comments are not only academically dishonest but also “feed into the dangerous trends of rising animosity and scapegoating of Asian Americans.” 

“There can be a point where a colleague’s hate speech is so threatening and pervasive that it does create a problematic atmosphere for working and learning,” Ruger said.


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