Law Professors

Law prof's remarks about 'Asian elite' put her back at center of controversy

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The eastern facade of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School in 2006. Photo by Jeffrey M. Vinocur via Wikimedia Commons.

A controversial professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School is once again drawing condemnation, this time for remarks about “problematic” immigration by the “Asian elite.”

In a Dec. 20 podcast by Brown University economics professor Glenn Loury, Penn Law professor Amy Wax said dominance by the “Asian elite” was a danger., Original Jurisdiction, the Daily Pennsylvanian, NBC News and Above the Law have coverage or commentary; How Appealing links to the coverage.

Wax said Asians “tend to be more conformist to whatever the dominant ethos is,” and the dominant ethos today is “wokeness.”

“Does the spirit of liberty beat in their breast?” she asked. Wax also said South Asian women doctors are “at the forefront of … advocating anti-American sentiment,” and South Asians “just love to bash America.”

After the interview, Wax wrote a written response to a podcast listener whose posted message challenged her views. Wax said the United States would be “better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration” as long as they support Democrats and their positions.

Ted Ruger, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, said in a statement Wax’s views “are diametrically opposed to the policies and ethos of this institution.”

“Like all racist generalizations, Wax’s recent comments inflict harm by perpetuating stereotypes and placing differential burdens on Asian students, faculty and staff to carry the weight of this vitriol and bias,” Ruger said.

Ruger noted that Wax has tenure.

“The same academic freedom principles that permit current scholars to engage in critical and overdue analysis of this nation’s historical and structural discrimination—despite zealous efforts to censor such speech by some—also apply to faculty like Wax who voice xenophobic and white supremacist views,” he said.

Meanwhile, an online petition by Penn Law students seeks Wax’s suspension. Ruger had barred Wax from teaching mandatory classes to first-year law students in 2018 after she said she said Black law students rarely graduate in the top half of the class. Ruger said Wax’s remarks weren’t true.

Wax has also been condemned for remarks about the dangers of cultural change caused by immigration from third-world countries and the importance of “bourgeois culture.”

At Original Jurisdiction, writer David Lat took issue with the substance of Wax’s views.

“Many Asian immigrants to the United States came here precisely because they wanted more freedom than they had in their countries of origin,” Lat wrote. “After coming here, they adopted the ‘bourgeois values’ so prized by Wax, availing themselves of this nation’s political and economic freedom to make better lives for themselves and their children. …

“It seems that Wax’s main complaint with Asian Americans is that they tend to vote Democratic. But this wasn’t always the case; for many years, Asian Americans were actually a reliably Republican voting bloc. This started to change only in the 1990s, as Asian immigrants became more assimilated into America and as their American-born children became old enough to vote. …

“In fact, if I had to guess, increasing immigration from Asia would actually tug Asian Americans rightward, by growing the segment of the Asian-American community that’s vehemently opposed to Communism, totalitarianism and anything that smacks of those things—including, yes, some aspects of woke culture.”

At Above the Law, writer Joe Patrice said it’s time for Penn Law to cut ties with Wax.

“For what feels like the millionth time, we have to reiterate that none of this is what tenure is all about,” Patrice wrote. “There’s no legal scholarship furthered by shielding her from tackling unpopular subjects; she’s just citing Wikipedia to make lazy punditry in a sad bid to get noticed by Fox News. And every time she does it, we all have to repeat ‘Penn Law school professor,’ further dragging the school’s reputation into this.”

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