Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Penn Law Dean Starts Process That Could Lead To Sanctions On Professor Amy Wax

Following up Saturday's post, Debate Intensifies Over Potential Discipline For Penn Law Prof Amy Wax:  Philadelphia Inquirer, Penn Law Dean Starts Process That Could Lead to Sanctions on Professor Amy Wax:

Penn Logo (2022)The University of Pennsylvania’s law school dean Tuesday announced he would initiate a process that could lead to sanctions against long-time law professor Amy Wax for her racist comments.

In a noon email to the law school community, Dean Ted Ruger said he would invoke a faculty review, which must occur before any action, major or minor, could be taken. The process spelled out in Penn’s faculty handbook covers the issuing of minor sanctions such as a letter of reprimand, or convening a faculty hearing board to review charges for major sanctions such as suspension or termination of employment.

January 18 Statement About Actions Regarding Amy Wax:

Dear Law School students, faculty, and staff,
Since at least 2017, and most recently again two weeks ago, Professor Amy Wax has repeatedly made derogatory public statements about the characteristics, attitudes, and abilities of a majority of those who study, teach, and work here. In some of those instances, she has exploited her faculty access to confidential information about students in ostensible support of her inaccurate statements.

Her conduct has generated multiple complaints from members of our community citing the impact of pervasive and recurring vitriol and promotion of white supremacy as cumulative and increasing. The complaints assert that it is impossible for students to take classes from her without a reasonable belief that they are being treated with discriminatory animus. These complaints clearly call for a process that can fairly consider claims, for example, that her conduct is having an adverse and discernable impact on her teaching and classroom activities.

Taking her public behavior, prior complaints, and more recent complaints together, I have decided it is my responsibility as Dean to initiate the University procedure governing sanctions taken against a faculty member. As I have already discussed with Faculty Senate leadership, I am aggregating the complaints received to date, together with other information available to me, and will serve as the named complainant for these matters. This process is necessarily thorough and deliberate, but using it allows consideration of the range of minor and major sanctions permissible under the University’s rules.

As this process takes place, my colleagues and I will continue the daily work of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School in training and supporting brilliant attorneys from the broadest possible range of backgrounds, ensuring equitable treatment in the classroom and throughout our institution.
Ted Ruger

Brian Leiter (Chicago), Penn Law to Move Forward With Faculty Process For Sanction of a Tenured Faculty Member in Amy Wax Case:

If the process vindicates the claim that "it is impossible for students to take classes from her without a reasonable belief that they are being treated with discriminatory animus," that might suffice to satisfy something like an analogue of the Pickering standard in the First Amendment context.

Letter From Academic Freedom Alliance to Penn President Gutmann (Jan. 16, 2022):

I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that Professor Wax should suffer no formal consequences as the result of these public statements. Regardless of what one thinks about Professor Wax’s personal political views, the only appropriate action that the University of Pennsylvania should take in this situation is to publicly reaffirm the free speech rights of the members of its faculty.

Politicians and members of the campus community are free to disagree with Professor Wax and to publicly express those disagreements, but the university must stand firm when those disagreements turn into demands that members of the faculty be sanctioned or terminated for expressing their political opinions in public. The AFA calls upon the leadership of the University of Pennsylvania to reaffirm and adhere to its free speech principles by making clear that Professor Wax will not be sanctioned in any way for her constitutionally protected speech.

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