Black and Asian law students are pressuring officials at one of the nation’s top Ivy Leagues to remove a professor from the school for spewing racist rhetoric.
Amy Wax, a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor, has openly made racist remarks in and outside of the lecture hall, NBC News reports. The National Black Law Students Association, the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, and the North American South Asian Law Students Association jointly released a letter on Wednesday calling for Wax to be ousted from the campus and barred from talking to students.
Wax, who has taught courses at UPenn since 2001, said that country would be “better off with fewer Asians” and that “Blacks” and Asians are resentful of “Western peoples’ outsized achievements.”
“That Wax has been permitted to teach, supervise, and ridicule minority law students for over twenty-one years is alarming,” the letter says. “Few understand how much more burdensome law school is for students who continuously receive the message that they are ‘less than’ or do not belong.”
The Penn Law School has received backlash for years about the professor’s remarks. The school has disciplined Wax. Her actions are currently under review, but her offensive tirades have continued.
In a recent interview, Wax said the pushback goes against “academic freedom.” Wax teaches two courses at the law school.
“My case is on some level not about me. I’m just roadkill. I’m a casualty in the culture wars,” Wax told Canadian YouTuber Gad Saad in January. “What I see being said and done with respect to me is truly alarming. It is a total repudiation of the very concept of academic freedom.”
The group of student leaders is demanding that the school strip Wax of all of her teaching duties and investigate if her grading of Black, brown and Asian students has been fair, NBC News reports. The student organizations want Wax to be suspended until her grade books from the past 21 years are reviewed.
Officials have found themselves apologizing for Wax’s remarks, which they say are allowed because of freedom of speech rights.
Penn law spokesperson Meredith Rovine said this week the school “has previously made clear that Professor Wax’s views do not reflect our values or practices.” Penn also stopped Wax from teaching a first-year course in 2018.
Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger in January announced that he would launch a University Faculty Senate process to address Wax’s “escalating conduct.” Just last week, in an interview on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Wax called India a “s—hole” and made disparaging comments about Asian people.
“As descendants of enslaved ancestors, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and persons holding multiple identities among these, we reject Amy Wax’s hateful rhetoric that we and our communities are dangerous, inferior, do not belong, have made fewer contributions, and are inherently less able to utilize the law because of our skin colors or heritages,” the letter reads. “Minority law students belong in the spaces they occupy.”
Wax was barred from teaching first-year students in March 2018, months after she told Brown professor Glenn Loury she had never seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the Penn Law class.
“Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class and rarely, rarely in the top half,” Wax said in a YouTube lecture video.
When asked about the downside of affirmative action, Wax said: “I can think of one or two students who’ve graduated in the top half of my required first-year course.”
Ruger sanctioned Wax shortly after an online petition was published. At the time, he said that Wax had the right to free speech, but she went against the school’s policy by discussing student grades. Ruger also refuted Wax’s claims about Black student performance.
“[B]lack students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law, and the Law Review does not have a diversity mandate. Rather, its editors are selected based on a competitive process,” Ruger said in an email. “And contrary to any suggestion otherwise, black students at Penn Law are extremely successful, both inside and outside the classroom, in the job market, and in their careers.”
Penn students and alum had started calling for Wax’s removal in 2017 when she used her right to freedom of expression to write an opinion piece in The Daily Pennsylvanian arguing that white, Anglo-Protestant culture is superior.
“Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans,” she said.
Richard Garzola, chair of NBLSA and a law student at Georgetown University, told NBC News Wax’s comments are cutting and feel intentionally harmful.
“She was using verbiage from the late 1800s or early 1900s, speaking about students as ‘the Blacks,'” he said. “I wonder, when is that cloud of tenure going to stop protecting folks at legal institutions?”