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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Wax Wars Rage On At Penn Law

Penn (2017)Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Forward, Is This Penn Law Professor A Truth-Teller Or A Bigot?:

The latest battle in the “free speech wars” on college campuses took place at the University of Pennsylvania this month, where a professor known for her controversial views on affirmative action was removed from her position teaching mandatory first-year classes.

Amy Wax, a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, had made disparaging remarks about the school’s black students and suggested that some of them should not be at the school. After the video of her remarks came to light earlier this month, the school announced that she was barred from teaching first-year students and would only teach her specific areas of expertise — but would also maintain her tenure, salary and seniority.

Her case raises questions over whether colleges will allow professors, students and speakers to express controversial or even offensive views.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/04/the-wax-wars-rage-on-at-penn-law.html

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Comments

I think Penn needs some ADR here.

Posted by: mike livingston | Apr 16, 2018 4:29:42 AM

"Amy Wax, a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, had made disparaging remarks about the school’s black students"
When did she do that? You're perpetuating the myth.

Posted by: jim | Apr 16, 2018 6:11:21 AM

Affirmative action is part of the culture of dependency into which progressives have tempted minorities since LBJ's Great Society was launched in 1965, and what do we have to show for it? Broken families, fatherless children, school dropout, gang violence and mismatched failure.

Posted by: Ed Vidal | Apr 16, 2018 6:20:39 AM

disparaging: tending to belittle or bring reproach upon.
Wax did no such thing.
Does anybody speak the language anymore?

Posted by: Frank Natoli | Apr 16, 2018 6:43:19 AM

Odd that such questions are being raised. I thought the main reason for tenure was to ensure that professors could "express controversial or even offensive views." That's what academic freedom means. It's not about the right to say, "The weather is nice today, isn't it?"

And while Penn Law's administrators claim what Prof. Wax has said is inaccurate, they refuse to release the data that would prove or disprove her claims. They are the ones who seem to have something to hide.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Apr 16, 2018 7:05:17 AM

"had made disparaging remarks about the school’s black students" -- someone's reading comprehension is not so good. Her remarks were about a misfit between some students and the programs they get into. I saw nothing where she "disparaged" black students at Penn.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie | Apr 16, 2018 7:14:16 AM

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the [Penn Law school] class . . ."
Sounds pretty disparaging to a whole group of people to imply that they are not capable of succeeding at Penn Law despite there being either a) no way to verify it due to anonymous grading, or b) evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: Awesome Anon Name | Apr 16, 2018 11:11:46 AM

To quote Fox News's reporting:

"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. “I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”

Isn't that disparaging the accomplishments of black students at Penn, in that it is "tending to belittle" their academic achievements, particularly if, as the school has said, the statement is false?

It's fair to point out that, while the school has stated that Wax's claim is false, it has not come forward with data to prove that. On the other hand, it's also fair to point out that Wax herself has given no data to support her factual claims, either. It's not obvious, to me at least, that it's the school's obligation to come forward with evidence when Wax hasn't.

And I take the point that it's concerning for people to be punished for expressing controversial views. Fair enough. But that doesn't mean she didn't disparage anyone.

Posted by: Puzzled | Apr 16, 2018 11:16:36 AM

"Her case raises questions over whether colleges will allow professors, students and speakers to express controversial or even offensive views."
What about "allowing totally reasonable points"? Actually, I am offended by the wall of deafness as regard questions which should be obvious for everybody, and are avoided only because they criticize progressive causes.
I say "should be obvious", but they are actually obvious: otherwise progressives wouldn't be so scared by them, to the point of not allowing them at all.

Posted by: Paolo Pagliaro | Apr 16, 2018 12:58:37 PM

@MichaelWPerry -- I'm inclined to think that both the school and you are correct. The school can probably easily release evidence rebutting one of Wax's specific claims, but not without risking affirming her broader and more important point.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Apr 16, 2018 1:03:12 PM

Any lawyer should see immediately that Wax's statement cannot be refuted. It's a statement of belief about what she personally saw. That puts it two steps removed from a statement of fact. Just read the words:

"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. “I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”

Bill Clinton used to hedge his statements like this and everyone celebrated his cleverness for doing so.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Apr 17, 2018 7:16:54 AM

Again, a ridiculous conversation considering Penn’s honors system. You can roughly estimate top 1/4 by cum laude. People at Penn know this. Cum laude across the T-14 is generally the same. Maybe you all should take a trip.

Posted by: Find your group | Apr 21, 2018 8:15:28 PM