ADVERTISEMENT

Remove Penn Law professor

March 18, 2018 GMT

The University of Pennsylvania Law School made the right decision in demoting a white law professor who falsely said in a video that Black students seldom graduated high in their class.

The school has taken a step in the right direction, but should go further and remove the professor entirely from the classroom for making inaccurate, inflammatory racial remarks.

Amy Wax, a tenured professor at the law school, will no longer teach a mandatory first-year law school course, Penn Law Dean Theodore Ruger said in a statement Wednesday.

But Wax will continue to teach electives in her areas of expertise. She specializes in social welfare law and policy. Wax will also retain her salary and seniority.

Ruger said Wax spoke “disparagingly and inaccurately” when she claimed last year that she had “rarely, rarely” seen a Black student finish in the top half of a class.

“It is imperative for me as dean to state that these claims are false,” he said, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law,” Ruger said. “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.”

Wax told the Daily Pennsylvanian that “student performance is a matter of fact, not opinion. It is what it is.”

The professor’s erroneous remarks came in an interview she gave in September 2017 with Brown University professor Glenn Loury titled, “The Downside to Social Uplift.”

“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 the video, which discussed affirmative action policies. “I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”

Wax also claimed in the video that the school’s law review had a diversity mandate. Speaking about Black law students at Penn and peer schools, she went on to say that some of them shouldn’t even be attending college.

Ruger said that was incorrect, too. “The Law Review does not have a diversity mandate. Rather, its editors are selected based on a competitive process,” he said.

Wax’s comments reflect a deeply disturbing pattern. An August commentary on Philly.com by Wax on race and culture was filled with bigotry.

“All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy,” Wax wrote. The column went on to state that some working-class whites, the “rap culture of inner-city Blacks” and “anti-assimilation ideas” among Hispanic immigrants were destructive to American democracy. The piece called on academics, the media and Hollywood to “relinquish multicultural grievance polemics” and “return to the 1950s posture of celebrating” bourgeois culture.

ADVERTISEMENT

She told the Daily Pennsylvanian that “everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans” because their cultural norms were superior. “I don’t shrink from the word ‘superior,’” she told the newspaper.

Wax denigrates Black Penn Law students with false and deeply offensive claims. How can African-American students in her class believe they are being treated fairly when she is making remarks about race and culture steeped in white supremacy?

This professor does not belong in the classroom.