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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Penn Law Students Try To Ban Amy Wax From Teaching Civil Procedure Due To Her Breakdown Of The Bourgeois Culture Op-Ed

WaxFollowing up on my previous posts:

National Lawyers Guild, Penn Law Chapter, Penn NLG Statement on Professor Amy Wax:

While we do not challenge Professor Wax’s right to express her views, we question whether it is appropriate for her to continue to teach a required first-year course. The Penn Law administration has long been aware that her bigoted views inevitably seep into her words and actions in the classroom and in private conversations with students. We call on the administration to consider more deeply the toll that this takes on students, particularly students of color and members of the LGBTQIA community, and to consider whether it is in the best interests of the school and its students for Professor Wax to continue to teach a required first-year class. Exposure to a diversity of viewpoints is an essential and valuable part of any educational experience, but no student should have to be exposed to bigotry or abuse in the classroom.

Since Professor Wax is, as usual, scheduled to teach Civil Procedure this fall, and we know that is unlikely to change, we offer ourselves as a resource for first-year students in Professor Wax’s class. 1Ls in Professor Wax’s class: whether you need someone just to listen, to help you figure out how to get through the semester, or to advocate on your behalf, Penn NLG has your back.

In 2015, Professor Wax received the University of Pennsylvania's Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (only three other Penn law professors have received the award in the past twenty years). 

Update:  Above the Law, Law Students Seek To Ban Professor From Teaching 1Ls

 

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/09/penn-law-students-try-to-get-amy-wax-banned-from-teaching-civil-procedure.html

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Comments

The students are correct. Amy Wax should not be able to teach a required first-year course. I'll give you one good example why she should not be allowed to teach first-year students. A few years ago, at an Emerging Family Law Scholars Conference, Amy Wax and I were sitting in the same small-group workshop session. During the comments portion, she began to rattle off a bunch of racist stereotypes, repeatedly pointing at me as she stated them. I was in shock. After a while, I told her, "Stop pointing at me with each statement." She look a little surprised when I told her to stop. It was clear to me that she did not realize she kept pointing at me. She was doing it reflexively. I am a law professor, and she was clearly associating the negative stereotypes she was asserting with me. To my mind, that's a pretty clear example of racism. And, that's apart from the fact that what she was saying was BS. Note that I am a law professor, and I felt uncomfortable in that room. Luckily, because I am a law professor, and not a student, I could say something directly to her. Given her reflexive actions in that workshop, I would not be surprised if she does not engage in similar behavior in the classroom. No student of color or LGBTQIA student should have to endure that in the classroom. Having her teach a first-year course, a course that some black students are assigned to without any say, is fundamentally providing those students with an unequal educational environment. No award she has won would change my mind. And, there is room full of professors who can verify this incident at the Emerging Family Law Scholars Conference.

Posted by: Angela Onwuachi-Willig | Sep 10, 2017 10:27:55 AM

Professor Wax has been teaching at Penn for many years, yet none of the attacks on her has pointed to a single inappropriate act in her teaching. This is simply an effort to marginalize someone with different political views.

Posted by: George W. Dent Jr | Sep 10, 2017 12:19:25 PM

Angela, I recall your comment as being out of place and ridiculous. That's why Amy looked puzzled. It's hard living in the real world where you have to respond to real ideas.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 10, 2017 12:22:54 PM

Funny. Every single person in that room (but Amy Wax) came up to me and said they were mortified, said they were glad I said something, and thanked me for saying. Everyone interpreted her actions the same way I did. I do not believe that you were in the room. You are just trying to discredit me. I suspect that is why you did not sign your name to your comment.

Posted by: Angela Onwuachi-Willig | Sep 10, 2017 1:34:17 PM

I knew every person in that room. Not one of them would ever refer to what Amy Wax was saying as "real ideas."

Posted by: Angela Onwuachi-Willig | Sep 10, 2017 1:42:53 PM

"Having her teach a first-year course, a course that some black students are assigned to without any say, is fundamentally providing those students with an unequal educational environment."

Let's assume the statement about subtle pointing is true and Professor Wax is unintentionally offending some students of color.

This level of bigotry seems pretty mild and innocuous compared to what students are likely to encounter at a law firm or bank or prosecutor's office, if not from colleagues then from clients. Wouldn't speaking with the Professor politely and privately about what the students find irksome about her behavior be a valuable education for the students and help prepare them for the real world? They will no always be customers about to complain to management at the slightest provocation; they will soon be junior employees who may have to deal with all manner of behaviors they find mildly (or not so mildly) unpleasant.

Posted by: A thought | Sep 10, 2017 1:56:06 PM

"Having her teach a first-year course, a course that some black students are assigned to without any say, is fundamentally providing those students with an unequal educational environment."

Let's assume the statement about subtle pointing is true and Professor Wax is unintentionally offending some students of color.

This level of bigotry seems pretty mild and innocuous compared to what students are likely to encounter at a law firm or bank or prosecutor's office, if not from colleagues then from clients. Wouldn't speaking with the Professor politely and privately about what the students find irksome about her behavior be a valuable education for the students and help prepare them for the real world? They will not always be customers able to complain to management at the slightest provocation; they will soon be junior employees who may have to deal with all manner of behaviors they find mildly (or not so mildly) unpleasant.

Posted by: A thought | Sep 10, 2017 1:57:04 PM

The fact that this last comment was anonymous either diminishes its credibility or enhances it. I'd wager the latter.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Sep 10, 2017 3:59:51 PM

If these law students are serious in their insistence that bourgeois culture is of no value, they need make a second demand of Penn Law. The school should strip all vestiges of bourgeois culture from its hiring and tenure policies for faculty.

One obvious illustration is an insistence on being published in peer-reviewed legal journals. You can hardly get more bourgeoise than publish or perish. Offer as a alternative a rap sheet for felony convictions. Treat ten such convictions as the equivalent of ten published papers.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Sep 10, 2017 4:16:16 PM

It would be their loss. I doubt Prof. Wax and I pull the same lever in the voting booth, but she's objectively an excellent professor. I took a second class with her simply because it was her teaching it.

Posted by: lv | Sep 10, 2017 5:53:09 PM

@Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Can you post what she actually said instead of being so vague?

Posted by: Jabroni T. Wilson | Sep 10, 2017 7:50:55 PM

Tell them tough noogies. They can show up for class or fail.

Posted by: Myiq2xu™ | Sep 10, 2017 8:01:24 PM

As a gay man, I can say with confidence that these signatories do not speak for me or for other gay people. I can also say that, as a rule of thumb, anyone who uses a term like "LGBTQIA community" in a non-ironic sense, should not be taken seriously.

Posted by: David Lasker | Sep 10, 2017 10:00:19 PM

Anyone who wants to prevent someone from teaching because they are uncomfortable with their views should not themselves be teaching.

Posted by: mike livingston | Sep 11, 2017 4:10:09 AM

Angela O-W's comment illustrates how cognitive bias blinds you from distinguishing what's real from what's not. Prof. Wax's argument nails the problem nicely. For details and explanations, see https://www.routledge.com/Our-Story-How-Cultures-Shaped-People-to-Get-Things-Done/Handwerker/p/book/9781598746785

Posted by: Winston Penn Handwerker | Sep 11, 2017 5:11:56 AM

Is it really just acceptable behavior to call a member of the school community a "bigot" or a "racist" whenever you would like? The ease with which these students (and Prof Onwhachi-Willig) lob that accusation is a little scary. Ten years ago if someone made these accusations openly either (A) they would be proven and the prof. would be fired, or (B) they would be disproven and the students would face some pretty serious backlash and probably real consequences. Now the term "racist" just flies around everywhere.

Posted by: JM | Sep 11, 2017 6:10:17 AM

I find it off putting that Angela's comments are filled with innuendo about what Amy said. What did she say Angela? You are asserting that Amy said something racist. That's either true or defamatory. So, out with it, what did she say?

Angela, I'm a bit surprised by your taking this ambiguous approach. One would expect with leveling so serious a charge more would be forthcoming. Personally, I am unaware of anything racist in Amy's or Larry's writings or speeches, and my politics is way left of theirs.

The students' statement is also odd, in addition to their unwillingness to engage with a person whose views are conservative, why would they group the interests of "students of color" with "the LGBTQIA community". There is nothing intrinsically identical about those interests, other than some political correctness. First off, who are students of color? Is that defined by Title VII? If so, that's a very narrow group. And who is the LGBTQIA community? And Why would I think that the LG community have interests common with B, and for that matter why would the LGB community have interests common with T? These things are taken for granted, but they are not so obvious?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 11, 2017 6:40:01 AM

It sounds as if Angela Onwuachi-Willig should not be allowed to teach any first-year courses because of her intolerance and bigotry. Are you invoking some minority privilege that Amy Wax doesn't possess to excuse your intolerance?

Posted by: eddy wobegon | Sep 11, 2017 6:54:49 AM

Neither the students nor I said that Amy Wax should not be teaching at all. Re-read the students’ statement. They are requesting only that first-years, who cannot choose their professors, not be required to take a class with her. I have no issue with dealing with people who disagree with me. I have deep respect for many people, including family members, who disagree with me on many issues.

In fact, when I was a student, the students on one of the journals I worked on, including me, invited Amy Wax to be a panelist at a race symposium, precisely to have one of many different viewpoints as part of that symposium. The key is that we made that choice. No one forced us to do it.

Also, let me make it clear. I am not attacking Amy Wax. I am supporting the NLG students, whom some people are treating like whiners. If I wanted to attack Amy Wax, I would have told the public about my experience with her years ago. All I wanted to do was demonstrate that the students' concerns are real. Anyone who knows me knows that I would not be wading into this mess otherwise. And, I have told any anti-Wax person who has asked me about joining them in some way that I am not interested in delving in any of these battles against her. I only wanted to provide support for the students.

All of you are missing my point. My point is not that Amy Wax has views that I disagree with or that she is insensitive. My point is that she was not acting purposefully, but rather reflexively in that room with me. In a room full of law professors, she was engaging in what I and many others viewed as the racist act of repeatedly gesturing at me while muttering racial stereotypes and, from my point of view, doing it unknowingly. And, if she cannot control her biases in front of professors, I truly worry about what she is like in front of her first-year students, who cannot speak up like I did. Second-year and third-year students can choose their professors, and I have no problem with her teaching students who have chosen to have her as a professor.

Talk about irony. I find it funny that some of the same people who wonder why students cannot simply approach Wax after class and tell her what they find irksome have no issue with the anonymous commenter. The anonymous commenter, if the person was really there, is a professor. Anyone who was at that conference is surely tenured by now. So, some of you have no issue with someone—who is tenured, whose career I have no control over, and who has an established reputation—speaking anonymously, but you want first-year law students, who have no security and who are just beginning their careers, to speak up to a professor who will be grading them, who can bad-mouth them to other professors, and who could possibly even bad-mouth them to employers.

Also, “A Thought” wrote, “This level of bigotry seems pretty mild and innocuous compared to what students are likely to encounter at a law firm or bank or prosecutor’s office, if not from colleagues then from clients.” These comments somehow suggest that students of color and LGBTQIA students do not already regularly experience bigotry. In our society, these students do and will regularly encounter all kinds of bigotry throughout their lives. These students cannot choose when these acts occur, but law schools can choose to take steps to minimize the possibility of students having to regularly encounter bigotry in the classroom. Law schools have a responsibility to try to provide an equal educational environment for all students.

For Jabroni Wilson, I do not recall her specific statements. They were much like what she wrote in her op-ed with Alexander, only she repeatedly and explicitly referred to African Americans. The comments were more or less along the lines that African Americans are inferior and have bad culture, from what I remember. What I do remember is that her comments were not at all related to the paper we were workshopping. They were gratuitous. The comments she made purposefully (which she had a right to do), but her hand motions were not—at least to my mind. That is a major problem.

That’s it. I am out. I have to finish my work.

Posted by: Angela Onwuachi-Willig | Sep 11, 2017 7:12:10 AM

I was in the room at the Emerging Family Law Scholars conference to which Prof. Onwuachi-Willig referred. The subject of the session was a chapter I had written on the civic education that should be required at public schools. In the discussion, Prof. Wax made the claim that civic education was beside the point. No parent who had the choice would send their children to public schools anymore because the schools had been overrun with children who had been raised by single mothers who hadn’t done their job properly. These children, according to Prof. Wax, were disciplinary problems and were not ready to learn. Prof. Onwuachi-Willig was the only African American in the room. As she stated, Prof. Wax did repeatedly gesture at her each time she made a generalization about these children, until Prof. Onwuachi-Willig asked her to stop.

Posted by: Maxine Eichner | Sep 11, 2017 7:34:53 AM

She made multiple racist comments that affected you so powerfully you do not remember a single word of what she said? While compulsively pointing at you?

That is not behavior that a person engages in just one time. It sounds almost pathological. Yet there is no evidence she has ever done it, ever, except your word.

You're lying. It never happened. Pathetic.

Posted by: deepelemblues | Sep 11, 2017 7:42:16 AM

Angela, someone "began to rattle off a bunch of racist stereotypes, repeatedly pointing at [you] as she stated them," to the point that you told her to stop, and every single person in the room told you they were mortified, and you can't recall even one of the comments? This doesn't sound like a plausible story.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 11, 2017 8:44:22 AM

Seems like the prestigious professor here just continues to poison the well, not realizing arguments rise and fall on their own merits not their source. It doesn't matter if the person responding is anynoynomus or Satan himself. It's a irrelevant distraction from the fact you either need to overtly state what she said or you are just libeling people that aren't here to reply.

Knowing the psychology of memory, the inability of people to separate what they felt from what is said, this entire thing seems unbelievably unprofessional. I'm sure that your paper that will go on to be published in the feminist journal of lghbtz+ dance theory and to be cited by fellow ideologues can wait for that.

Posted by: Bobby | Sep 11, 2017 9:06:55 AM

"The comments were more or less along the lines that African Americans are inferior and have bad culture, from what I remember."

Well, that's convincing.

Posted by: One and done | Sep 11, 2017 10:49:10 AM

It absolutely makes sense that I would not remember the particular comments. I was struck by the fact that she kept pointing at me. I was distracted because I was totally shocked and was trying to figure out what to do. It was so unprofessional that I was startled. I thought it would pass but she just kept doing it. I have absolutely no reason to lie, and Maxine just confirmed it.

Posted by: Angela Onwuachi-Willig | Sep 11, 2017 11:19:55 AM

Not to pile on, but this has really sparked my curiosity. As a black person, I'd love to know what the the alleged comments were exactly so that I can properly evaluate them for myself.

I cannot simply take Ms. Willig's sensibilities to be accurate or representative of me and my sensibilities as a black man on their face, because, I've learned that accepting charges of racism on their face without being presented with the evidence on which the charge results often means that, after a bit of digging, the charge turns out to be unwarranted at worst, or questionable at best.

Now we learn that the source of the charge against Ms. Wax cannot "recall the specifics," so are we to still to believe the accusation and agree with the suggested consequences? I am not willing to do that at this point without more credible information. Sorry.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 11, 2017 11:37:03 AM

Maxine,
Had Angela spoken prior Amy at the conference? Is so, what had Angela said? Could Amy have been directly responding to Angela? Put another way, did the context of the conversation refer directly to Angela's words, comments, or writings, or were the gesturing illogical because Angela had neither said nor read anything to explain why Amy would turn specifically to her? Did Amy point to or conflict others at the conference, who presumably weren't black, since you said Angela was the only African American in the room?

Posted by: anon | Sep 11, 2017 11:58:48 AM

"her bigoted views inevitably seep into her words and actions"

Sounds like the bigots are the students who complained.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive | Sep 11, 2017 12:59:24 PM

I attended a conference where Amy Wax was a speaker and said in a gratuitous aside during her conference talk (while still on the stand), that gay relationships were inferior to straight relationships and that she would never want her kid to be gay. There were multiple gay and lesbian attendees as she said this (Russell Robinson, Tony Varona, Courtney Joslin), and we were all appalled - there were audible gasps across the room.

If she says this from the stand to nationally known faculty colleagues in a conference setting, I have to wonder what she says to her captive audience of 1Ls who wield vastly less power.

Posted by: Kaimi Wenger | Sep 11, 2017 1:01:19 PM

Predictably, the voices of diversity and inclusion are calling for Professor Wax's ouster from the first year curriculum because of her political views. Talk about the chilling of free speech. I read her piece and thought it non-controversial, but I guess things like two-parent households, a work ethic, a drug-free lifestyle, patriotism, etc., are now objectionable to many persons.

Posted by: sullivan2day | Sep 11, 2017 1:58:22 PM

At the next conference where Amy Wax is in attendance, I will be there giving a talk. Every time I mention ignorance and racism in the academy, I will point directly and repeatedly at her.

Posted by: Madame Tussaud | Sep 11, 2017 7:10:48 PM

Angela, you know everyone in the room and they all came to you in agreement? Could you list them here and then we can confirm your claim?

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 11, 2017 7:27:04 PM

@Kaimi Wenger: "audible gasps across the room" does not mean she was wrong. The rate of suicidality, drug abuse, and major mental illness (not transient depression) is greater by several orders of magnitude (e.g., 19 times greater) among persons who identify as gay. Don't believe it? Look it up via the National Institutes of Health Medical Library. These relationships are not equivalent to traditional relationships.

Posted by: UNT Grad | Sep 12, 2017 6:55:12 AM

My satirical response to the op-ed. Which hopefully displays why students are so horrified to have to take classes from its authors. http://abovethelaw.com/2017/09/that-one-op-ed-by-those-two-law-professors/

Posted by: Lawprofblawg | Sep 12, 2017 1:57:05 PM

Instead of censuring or removing Dr Wax, why not just let law students choose which section of Civil Procedure they want to take?

Posted by: Enrique | Sep 13, 2017 12:37:38 AM

Instead of censuring or removing Dr Wax, why not just let law students choose which section of Civil Procedure they want to take?

Posted by: Enrique | Sep 13, 2017 12:37:39 AM

If 1L's can't handle this, they don't belong in law school. Same goes for the 2L's, 3L's, and professors. People think differently than you do, and it includes things you will think are beyond the pale. Get used to co-existing with that. You don't get to tilt the politcal stage so steeply so that you don't have to be confronted with people you disagree with. I don't see Prof. Wax demanding the removal of people she disagrees with. Funny thing, tolerance.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Sep 13, 2017 4:19:20 AM

The comments were more or less along the lines that African Americans are inferior and have bad culture, from what I remember.

If you compare black America in 2017 to black America in 1955, you see a pool of people who are a great deal more affluent and who are not hemmed in or injured by caste restrictions. In other respects, the comparison is depressing (as are similar comparisons done of other communal groups at different points in time).

There's quite a bit of difference in the medians, means, and standard deviations in assessing the black minority contra the rest of the population. Some of the differences are innocuous for civic purposes (say, the properties of worship in a Convention Baptist congregation and a Southern Baptist congregation). But some are not. Among those which are not are:

1. Much higher exposure to violent crime (and somewhat higher exposure to property crime) consequent to a larger or more promiscuous hoodlum population (and, often ineffectual policing).

2. Much higher exposure to school disorder. Again, a comparatively larger or more troublesome incorrigible population is to blame, with a weak disciplinary regime contributing.

3. Human capital deficits and defects in the social economy. The manifestation is not extreme, but it is true that employment-to-population ratios are currently about 10% lower among blacks than they are in the rest of the population. (See Thos Sowell on this point: this was not so 70 years ago).

4. Differences in time preference. Edward Banfield called attention to this nearly 50 years ago writing about poor urban populations generally. It's a problem at every stratum of society among black Americans and is manifest in statistics re personal assets. Not enough deferred consumption and too much value placed on display goods.

5. Differences in the capacity to form and maintain normal families. About 70% of all black children are born out of wedlock. (It's 30% among white Anglos). Some of these youngsters are legitimated post partum, of course. Then again, many marriages in the black population have a mix-n-match collection of kids: his previous trysts, her previous trysts, and their joint children. Marriage among blacks also tends to have abnormal attrition rates.

6. The coarsening of culture and mass entertainment. Once upon a time there was Dinah Washington and Brook Benton. Now there's rap. This isn't progress.

7. A wretched political culture. In 1955, voting blacks split their support between the parties 70 / 30. Since 1964, about 90% of voting blacks cast ballots for the Democratic Party and are completely insensitive to external circumstances. Rudolph Giuliani presided over an important improvement in the quality of life for New York CIty's black, but he couldn't persuade more than 15% of black voters in New York to change their minds and vote for him, even running against someone as inadequate as Ruth Messenger.


None of this is doing black Americans any good. Much of it cannot be addressed through public policy. There's nothing to be gained by pretending this isn't happening and that these are not problems.

Posted by: Art Deco | Sep 13, 2017 8:46:46 AM

Professor Wax does not support gay marriage. What a monster.
Oh, the humanity!

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Sep 13, 2017 8:46:51 AM

I attended a conference where Amy Wax was a speaker and said in a gratuitous aside during her conference talk (while still on the stand), that gay relationships were inferior to straight relationships and that she would never want her kid to be gay.

That's a perfectly normal sentiment.

Posted by: Art Deco | Sep 13, 2017 8:51:01 AM

"My satirical response to the op-ed. Which hopefully displays why students are so horrified to have to take classes from its authors. http://abovethelaw.com/2017/09/that-one-op-ed-by-those-two-law-professors/"

Yes, I think it does brilliantly. Even if perhaps not in the way you think.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Sep 13, 2017 9:15:18 AM