Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School claims that a controversial op-ed she penned for a local paper last August ruined her progressive colleague’s summer break.
Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School came under fire last August for a column she penned for the Philadelphia Inquirer in which she argued that some cultures are better than others. Several student groups demanded that Wax be relieved of her teaching duties at the law school in response to the column’s publication.
Last fall, Wax defended her thesis that some cultures are better than others in an interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian. “I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior,’” she said, adding, “Everyone wants to come to the countries that exemplify” these values. “Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.”
In a column last week for the Wall Street Journal, Wax recalled an encounter she had with a colleague shortly after the column was published. After returning from summer break, Wax encountered a colleague who explained to her that her Inquirer column had ruined his summer.
Shortly after the op-ed appeared, I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen for a while and asked how his summer was going. He said he’d had a terrible summer, and in saying it he looked so serious I thought someone had died. He then explained that the reason his summer had been ruined was my op-ed, and he accused me of attacking and causing damage to the university, the students and the faculty. One of my left-leaning friends at Yale Law School found this story funny—who would have guessed an op-ed could ruin someone’s summer? But beyond the absurdity, note the choice of words: “attack” and “damage” are words one uses with one’s enemies, not colleagues or fellow citizens. At the very least, they are not words that encourage the expression of unpopular ideas. They reflect a spirit hostile to such ideas—indeed, a spirit that might seek to punish the expression of such ideas.
As a result of the backlash on campus, Wax has been asked to take a leave of absence from her teaching duties. The dean behind the request for Wax’s leave claimed that he was getting pressure to remove Wax from the faculty as a result of her “unpopular views.”
As for Penn, the calls to action against me continue. My law school dean recently asked me to take a leave of absence next year and to cease teaching a mandatory first-year course. He explained that he was getting “pressure” to banish me for my unpopular views and hoped that my departure would quell the controversy. When I suggested that it was his job as a leader to resist such illiberal demands, he explained that he is a “pluralistic dean” who must listen to and accommodate “all sides.”