Paul L. Caron

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Penn Law School Mob Scores A Victory

Following up on last week's post, After 'Disparaging' Comments About Black Students, Amy Wax Barred From Teaching 1L Course At Penn:  Wall Street Journal op-ed:  The Penn Law School Mob Scores a Victory, by Heather McDonald (Manhattan Institute):

The campus mob at the University of Pennsylvania Law School has scored a hit. Prof. Amy Wax will no longer be allowed to teach required first-year courses, the school’s dean announced last week. Now the leader of Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania wants Ms. Wax’s scalp. According to a weekend newspaper report, if she isn’t fired within a week, “he plans to make things on the West Philadelphia campus very uncomfortable.”

Ms. Wax’s sin this time was to discuss publicly the negative consequences of affirmative action. Her punishment underscores again the dangers of speaking uncomfortable truths in a university setting. ...

The latest outrage arises from a web video Ms. Wax recorded in September with Glenn Loury, an economist at Brown University. Forty or so minutes in, the discussion turned to racial preferences. Mr. Loury noted that, on average, students admitted via preferences “are less academically qualified—by definition!” Ms. Wax brought up the “mismatch” effect: the idea that the so-called beneficiaries of preferences have difficulty competing with peers who were admitted without them. “Take Penn Law School, or some top 10 law school,” Ms. Wax said. “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. I can think of one or two students who’ve scored in the top half in my required first-year course.”

Ms. Wax added that she teaches a “class of 89, 95 students” each year, “so I’m going on that because a lot of this data is of course a closely guarded secret.” That is an understatement. Schools pay fanatical attention to the racial makeup of their student bodies, then work just as fanatically to conceal the resulting gaps in qualifications and subsequent academic achievement.

Ms. Wax suggested that preference beneficiaries would do better in colleges where their academic preparation equaled that of their peers. “If they were better matched, it might be a better environment for them,” she said. “We’re not saying they shouldn’t go to college. We’re not saying that. I mean, some of them shouldn’t.” The statement that some college students would be better off in vocational training or work is true for all races, particularly for the millions who drop out before getting a degree.

The video had been online for months before someone at Penn got wind of it. Cue an alumni and student petition protesting Ms. Wax’s “disparaging, false and deeply offensive claims.”

The petition worked. In the campus email last week announcing Ms. Wax’s removal from first-year teaching, Mr. Ruger denounced her claims as false: “Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn law.” At the same time, he insisted that Penn does not “collect, sort or publicize grade performance by racial group.” ...

Mr. Ruger has accused Ms. Wax of a “conscious indifference” to the truth. The burden is on him to disclose the data that prove her thesis wrong. It is conceivable that to maintain plausible deniability about the effects of its racial preferences, Penn does not collect or analyze data on the performance of black law students. That information, however, would be easy to assemble.

The diversity industry has given notice: Discuss the costs of affirmative action, and you can be punished and publicly shamed. The real scandal is not what Ms. Wax said but that schools refuse to be transparent about admissions policies that impede students’ success.

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U. Penn. Law has an Order of the Coif chapter. Only the top ten percent of graduating students are eligible to be inducted. So U. Penn. Law definitely knows or could know how many black students have graduated in the top ten percent.

Posted by: Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk | Mar 21, 2018 7:55:38 AM

“Researching my book, I looked into what actually happened in the Weimar Republic. I found that, contrary to what most people think, Weimar Germany did have hate-speech laws, and they were applied quite frequently. The assertion that Nazi propaganda played a significant role in mobilizing anti-Jewish sentiment is, of course, irrefutable. But to claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only anti-Semitic speech and Nazi propaganda had been banned has little basis in reality. Leading Nazis such as Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch, and Julius Streicher were all prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech. Streicher served two prison sentences. Rather than deterring the Nazis and countering anti-Semitism, the many court cases served as effective public-relations machinery, affording Streicher the kind of attention he would never have found in a climate of a free and open debate. In the years from 1923 to 1933, Der Stürmer [Streicher's newspaper] was either confiscated or editors taken to court on no fewer than thirty-six occasions. The more charges Streicher faced, the greater became the admiration of his supporters. The courts became an important platform for Streicher's campaign against the Jews. In the words of a present-day civil-rights campaigner, pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the anti-hate laws of today, and they were enforced with some vigor. As history so painfully testifies, this type of legislation proved ineffectual on the one occasion when there was a real argument for it.

I have yet to be presented with evidence for the proposition that hate-speech laws are an effective instrument to prevent violence. Seen from Europe, the history of free speech in the U.S. undermines those who insist on a causal link between legalization of hate speech, on the one hand, and racist violence and killings, on the other. Throughout the twentieth century, the U.S. witnessed a gradual relaxation of restrictions on speech; nonetheless, today racism and racial discrimination is less of a problem than it was a hundred years ago.“

Posted by: His Story | Mar 20, 2018 7:22:40 AM

The article mischaracterizes Wax's objective: To make Penn an institution for White Supremacy. Not only are her claims about minority performance at Penn Law completely false, her claims about who should and should not attend Penn, reflect an agenda that was supposedly buried with the end of the Confederate States of America. ... It's good that Penn Law decided she shouldn't teach. And Penn really should dismiss her. She would be better off teaching at an academic institution of her peers -- maybe some community college, where teaching White Supremacy would be o.k. (is there such a place?).

Posted by: Peter M. | Mar 20, 2018 6:36:19 AM

This is what happens when topics conflict with political correctness. A sad day for the academy.

Posted by: Tom N | Mar 19, 2018 6:22:59 PM

I don't agree with Wax but this is plainly censorship based on substance of her political views. Very bad for Penn Law.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Mar 19, 2018 1:21:57 PM

The reason why this is such a big deal is because the question is easily answered. All one has to do is look at the names listed under cum laude to determine the approximate top quarter of the class. The problem here is that she apparently has not done that for 20 or so years. Lesson: don’t make statements that can easily be proved wrong to make a self-serving point.

Posted by: Evidence | Mar 19, 2018 1:15:12 PM

“Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn law.” At the same time, he insisted that Penn does not “collect, sort or publicize grade performance by racial group.”


Posted by: Mike Petrik | Mar 19, 2018 1:10:38 PM

Another lesson in never challenging the narrative. I think the impact and benefit of affirmative action programs is a topic worthy of discussion. Sadly, as with other positions which challenge the approved narrative, there is to be no debate but only an SJW outcry and demand for which the jelly-spined administrators are happy to deliver.

Posted by: Dan M | Mar 19, 2018 12:40:38 PM