Penn Professor Amy Wax, Under Fire for Speaking ‘Hate’ Facts, Receives Academic Courage Award

Truth trumps feelings.

By William M Briggs Published on April 14, 2018

Penn Law Professor Amy Wax has been charged with spreading hate facts. Few modern crimes are more detestable to our elites, which is why a swift and predictable reaction against Wax has begun.

In August 2017 Wax published an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which she spoke forbidden truths. Many of our culture’s “maladies,” she said, are caused by “the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.” We could “significantly reduce society’s pathologies” if we embraced traditional values. She went on:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These hateful words were noticed at Penn, which forced a spokesperson to issue a statement. “The views expressed in the article are those of the individual authors. They are not a statement of Penn Law’s values or institutional policies.”

The spokesperson did not say what Penn Law’s values were.

Somebody’s Knocking at the Door

Wax might have got away with her crime if she had stopped there. She did not. She went on to hate-notice that with respect to immigration, “Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.”

The Black Law Student Association sprang into action. They discovered an interview in which Wax said:

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the [Penn Law School] class and rarely, rarely in the top half,” Wax said of her belief of the downside of affirmative action in universities. “I can think of one or two students who’ve graduated in the top half of my required first year course.”

“Outrage,” that ubiquitous emotion, was the reaction. A petition said Wax’s figures were “false and deeply offensive.”

Brave Cowardice

Wax’s serial hate facts were obvious even to the meanest intelligence. This included the intelligence of Ted Ruger, the Dean of the Law School. He decided punishment was in order. He charged that Wax “transgress[ed] the policy that student grades are confidential” and that Wax used “her access to those Penn Law students who are required to be in her class to further her scholarly ends without students’ permission.”

Ruger then forbade Wax from teaching her first-year course.

Wax did not reveal any student’s grade, nor did she use her access without permission to “further her scholarly ends.” No one produced official figures to rebut Wax’s claim. But hate facts are hate facts and their use cannot go unpunished lest others are encouraged to speak them.

Ruger probably hoped his punitive acts would silence Wax. He was wrong.

She later wrote in the Wall Street Journal that a “reason measures of academic performance are hard to ignore is that students often expect equality of results and — especially in our identity-conscious world — issue loud demands for equality in group outcomes. When that doesn’t happen, frustration and disappointment ensue, followed by charges of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.”

One of Wax’s supporters wrote to her, stating, “The facts about the comparative performance of the different groups on [for example] the bar, medical boards, SATs, MCATs, LSATs etc. are well-established. Viewing these facts as offensive will not make them go away.”

A Scholarly Response

The National Association of Scholars recognized Wax’s efforts and on Thursday night at the offices of First Things in New York city presented to her the Peter Shaw Award “for her courage in the face of continued harassment for speaking uncomfortable truths.”

Wax noted in her acceptance speech that, although she is receiving massive encouragement from the public, all but a few of her fellow Penn professors have abandoned her. One or two expressed sympathy, but “did not want to go on the record.”

One man did go on record. This was University of Pennsylvania Trustee Emeritus and major donor Paul Levy. Make that ex-Trustee and ex-donor. Levy wrote to Penn President Amy Gutmann, “Preventing Wax from teaching first-year students doesn’t right academic or social wrongs. Rather, you are suppressing what is crucial to the liberal educational project: open, robust and critical debate over differing views of important social issues.”

Levy resigned his board seats. Wax is still employed by Penn and has no plans to back down from the fight. You can help her cause by spreading the word and forwarding this article to your friends, especially those in academia.

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