Legal Education

Citing statements Penn Law prof allegedly made while teaching and in interviews, dean asks for discipline against her

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The eastern facade of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School in 2006. Photo by Jeffrey M. Vinocur, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Citing her numerous “intentional and incessant racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic actions and statements,” as well as various disparaging remarks reportedly made to students, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School has requested that the faculty senate impose a major sanction against controversial professor Amy Wax.

The letter, dated June 23, was written by Theodore Ruger, dean of the law school. Inside Higher Ed reports that major sanctions can include termination, suspension, pay reductions and zero salary increases, according to the university’s faculty handbook.

Wax did not respond to an ABA Journal interview request. Ruger in an email told the Journal that university rules prohibited him from commenting. Meredith Rovine, a spokesperson for the law school, said in an email that the dean opted to move forward with the faculty senate process due to Wax’s “escalating conduct.”

Wax joined Penn Law as a tenured professor in 2001, and received an endowed chair in 2006. She also has an MD from Harvard Medical School, according to the law school website.

Ruger’s letter, sent to the faculty senate chair, acknowledges the university honors academic freedom, but also claims Wax’s alleged behavior “repeatedly and flagrantly” disregards the university’s nondiscrimination policies.

A former law school dean was retained to investigate the allegations after alumni in 2021 asked that a major sanction be imposed against Wax. She declined to participate in the investigation, which found many of the allegations to be creditable, Ruger wrote.

In 2022, after Wax reportedly made more derogatory public comments, this time about Asians immigrating to the United States, the university retained Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to interview members of the law school community about her behavior. She was given a summary of the findings in March, according to Ruger’s letter. It lists many instances of Wax’s alleged conduct while teaching, including:

    • A comment that gay couples are not fit to raise children.
    • An assertion that people of color needed to stop acting entitled to remedies and stop getting pregnant to get better jobs.
    • A statement that Mexican men were more likely to assault women.

Since 2018, Wax has not taught required courses at the law school. She was removed from those classes after saying that Black law students rarely graduated in the top half of the class.

Ruger’s letter also includes accusations from Black alumni. One graduate said Wax sent him an email while he was in law school, stating that if Black people really wanted to be treated equally, they would make changes in their own conduct and communities.

Wax’s public statements are also noted in Ruger’s letter. He wrote that many do not meet academic standards of research accuracy and attribution and could border on defamation or harassment and hostility. According to him, those statements from Wax include:

    • A claim that on average, women are less knowledgeable than men.
    • An assertion that there are individual and group differences in “talent, ability and drive” between races.
    • A remark that there were some very smart Jewish people among her past students, but those of Ashkenazi descent were “diluting [their] brand” through intermarriage.

See also: “Penn Law dean will seek university sanctions against law prof for her ‘derogatory public statements’” “Controversial Penn law prof is under fire for remarks about third-world immigration”

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