Episode #41: Amy Wax and Academic Courage

Peter Wood

In 2018, the National Association of Scholars awarded Amy Wax the Peter Shaw Award for Academic Courage. Peter had this to say about Amy when bestowing the award:

You have spoken the truth without fear or favor when others have cowered. You have braved the calumnies of those who, unable to answer your arguments, have resorted to unrelenting personal attack. Under fire, you have neither retreated nor flinched, but walked calmly forward. However shallow the safeguards of tenure may be in an age of academic casuistry, and however fearful honest colleagues may be as they sense the fanaticism of the mob, you have shown that clarity of purpose for which there is only one proper word: courage.

In this episode, Amy sits down with Peter to discuss the controversies and battles she has faced.

Show Notes

0:00 Peter introduces Amy Wax: Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, board member of the National Association of Scholars, both an MD and JD.

2:55 Amy argued fifteen cases before the Supreme Court, including one that taught her that “sometimes what looks like a great cause creates a lot of harm down the road.”

4:34 Social welfare, by many measures, is not in good shape—in large part because of “moral deregulation,” Amy says.

8:14 Amy’s article praising “bourgeois culture” sparked a firestorm.

11:31 Amy says every era has good and bad. So what’s the good in our era?

14:40 Amy’s student protesters discovered a clip in which she mentioned to Glenn Loury that she wasn’t aware of black law students who graduated at the top of their classes at Penn Law.

17:05 Amy spoke about immigration at the National Conservatism Conference this year, and that sparked another outrage.

25:45 At Penn, Dean Ruger called NAS a “fringe group.”

37:01 Dean Ruger claimed Amy contradicted “Penn law values.” What does that mean?

42:31 If Amy were dean of Penn Law School, what would she do?


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