Law \ Legal

Law School Seeking ‘Major Sanction’ Against Amy Wax… Cue The Whining About Academic Freedom

Amy Wax

Amy Wax

There’s really nothing to say about Penn Law’s Amy Wax that hasn’t already been said. I’ve been covering her racist antics since 2017, and I tried to open this piece with a mildly humorous pop culture reference only to realize I’d already used it three Amy Wax stories ago. It’s the “Simpsons Did It” episode of South Park but with my own writing.

In any event, after dragging Penn Law’s good name into articles about the superiority of “white culture,” attending a white nationalism conference, and talking about how America needs “fewer Asians,” Amy Wax may finally be on the precipice of actual punishment for the harm she visits upon the school while abusing her tenure. In fairness, she got taken off of 1L classes for claiming Black students never get good grades at Penn and then the school chastised her while she took a scheduled paid vacation after she said the country “needs fewer non-whites,” but neither of those really count as “punishment.”

But the remark about Asians prompted a formal complaint from Dean Ted Ruger citing her “promotion of white supremacy.” It’s formal action that came at least five years too late, but at least it finally arrived. Now, we learn that Ruger wrote the Faculty Senate late last month asking for the creation of a board to consider “major sanctions.”

Academic freedom for a tenured scholar is, and always has been, premised on a faculty member remaining fit to perform the minimal requirements of the job. However, Wax’s conduct demonstrates a “flagrant disregard of the standards, rules, or mission of the University.” Faculty Handbook Section II.E.16, Procedure Governing Sanctions Taken Against Members of the Faculty. Numerous students have expressed a mistrust of her ability to fairly instruct or judge them based on their individual merit. Moreover, students, faculty, and alumni have expressed that Wax’s persistent racist and bigoted on- and off-campus statements have created a demoralizing and demeaning environment for them.

Because, as we’ve stressed many times, Wax’s behavior has nothing to do with academic freedom. That’s not going to stop fellow academics from lining up to protect her out of ivory tower kinship or slippery slope panic or both. But that’s all noise. She’s not pursuing controversial scholarship, she’s citing Wikipedia! It’s not academic freedom to spout off without the whiff of research that the country needs “fewer non-whites” and it’s absolutely not about academic freedom to impugn Black students based on nothing at all (and this is important… if it wasn’t based on nothing that suggests she’s looking at individual transcripts for some reason which would ALSO merit punishment).

From Inside Higher Ed:

major sanction, according to Penn’s Faculty Handbook, can be “termination; suspension; reduction in academic base salary; [or] zero salary increases stipulated in advance for a period of four or more years.”

There’s a substantial range between termination and freezing salary increases. The powers-that-be will be tempted to err on the lower side. They should disregard that impulse.

The only reason to take a measured approach is some vague fear of “backlash.” But that’s inevitable. Penn Law will nonetheless find itself on the receiving end of disingenuous criticism no matter what punishment Wax earns. There will be opinion articles about “cancel culture” and the “woke mob” if they blow it all off and just put a letter in her file. They could end the inquiry by scolding her to “just do better in the future” and Tucker Carlson would be crying about it on-air that night.

Because this is the logic of a hostage situation. Wax will do more and more damage to the school and its reputation while constantly dangling the risk that she’ll make a scene if her employer ever does anything about it. And if the school backs down again, she’ll find a new low by the end of the week.

Will the school level real punishment this time around? It’s too early to tell. But the fact that I’m five years into writing these articles — just take a second to behold the “Earlier” section below — should be enough for any board to realize it’s way past time to take action.

Is Penn Going to Punish Amy Wax? [Inside Higher Ed]

Earlier: Amy Wax Faces Formal Complaint Over ‘Promotion Of White Supremacy’
Amy Wax Refuses To Resign Because Why Take The Graceful Road Now?
Amy Wax. That’s The Headline. You Know What She Did.
The Amy Wax Case Has Nothing To Do With Academic Freedom
Law Professor Amy Wax Expands Racism Portfolio To Declare That America Needs ‘Fewer Asians’
Georgetown Law’s Newest Hire Thinks Biden Will Nominate ‘Lesser Black Women’ To The Supreme Court
Dean Calls Amy Wax’s Remarks ‘Xenophobic And White Supremacist,’ Passes World’s Easiest Issue-Spotter
Penn Law’s Holiday Letter Adroitly Avoids That Whole ‘Superior Culture’ Incident This Year
Law School Professor Amy Wax Cites Wikipedia And We Need To Stop Pretending Tenure Was Made For This
Amy Wax’s Racist Remarks Force Penn Law School To Let Her Take A Paid Vacation
T14 Law Professor Goes To White Nationalism Conference And Says White Nationalist Things And Somehow Still Has A Job
Academia Means Never Having To Say, ‘I Got Fired’
Professor Amy Wax And The Bell Curve
Law Professors Say White ’50s Culture Is Superior, Other Racist Stuff
Penn Law School Prof Amy Wax Stumbles Into A Truth… Before Delving Back Into Vile Conspiracy Theories
Amy Wax Relieved Of Her 1L Teaching Duties After Bald-Faced Lying About Black Students
Professor Declares Black Students ‘Rarely’ Graduate In The Top Half Of Law School Class
Dog Whistling ‘Bourgeois Values’ Op-Ed Gets Thorough Takedown From Other Law Professors
Law Students Seek To Ban Professor From Teaching 1Ls
Law School Professor Says Dr. Ford ‘Should Have Held Her Tongue’ In Latest Embarrassment To Her School
Berkeley Law School Group Invites Amy Wax To Headline Event In Effort To Lower The Bar Even Further

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

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