Editor’s Note: The two documents to which we link in the buttons below contain the closing argument and slideshow presented by Professor Amy Wax’s counsel during disciplinary proceedings.
The University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn) proceedings are intended to seek and impose “major sanctions” as a consequence of Wax’s speech. The proceedings were requested by the dean of Penn’s Carey Law School, Theodore Ruger, in 2022. Dean Ruger alleges that Professor Wax has made inflammatory comments, among other similar complaints pertaining to university policies. Almost all cited examples of speech included in his complaint, as well as verifiable testimony provided by the university, are statements made by Professor Wax in public venues, not in class.
Wax’s public speech has included statements on race, culture, and justice. Such discussions, regardless of venue or taboo, are necessary. The winning arguments of these debates have real-world policy effects.
Academic freedom ought to protect such speech, and to ensure that it does have a place on campus. Sadly, Wax had to seek venues off campus in order to have important discussions of national interest.
It is our view, and has been our view, that Professor Wax’s public statements do not rise to the level of “major sanctions.” Moreover, her bravery to engage in such controversial conversations should be encouraged. It is the very reason we awarded Professor Wax with the Peter Shaw Memorial Award in 2018.
Photo by WestCoastivieS - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31626928