Penn Law students of color want ‘racist’ professor fired

JiLon Li, far right, co-president of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at the University of Pennsylvania, and other law students want controversial professor Amy Wax to be fired (Photo courtesy of Sarah Best/The Philadelphia Tribune)

PHILADELPHIA — University of Pennsylvania law students, fed up with the school’s failure to remove a controversial professor who has repeatedly made racist statements, rallied in front of the law school on Monday as their parents and partners visited the campus.

“We want to put pressure on the law school to work with us to ensure that she gets fired,” JiLon Li, Co-President of Penn’s Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, said, referring to law professor Amy Wax. “At the end of the day, Penn and other law schools have not taken the initiative to to make these places spaces where where students of color feel welcome. They have been reactive. We are pushing to create and environment that is inclusive.”

About 60 students from the APALSA, South Asian Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Muslim Law Students Association and Lambda Law participated in the protest. Many carried signs and handed out pamphlets with racist quotes attributed to Wax.

The protest follows the Penn Undergraduate Assembly’s unanimous approval last week of a resolution calling on the university to fire Wax and implement annual sensitivity training for all employees.

UA leaders plan to send the resolution to Penn President Amy Gutman and Provost Wendel Pritchett, who is Black, later this week.

In an emailed response to questions from the Tribune, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger spoke of students’ rights, but not Wax.

“Our students have the right to speak out, to peacefully assemble, and to seek reform on policies and issues that they feel strongly about,” Ruger wrote.

The push by Penn law students to have Wax — a tenured professor who has taught there since 2000 — fired gained steam over the summer as Wax was making the wrong kind of news.

In July, while speaking on a panel about immigration at the inaugural National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., Wax said, “America will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites.”

Wax also said that immigrants “are too loud” and are responsible for an increase in litter.

“Conservatives need a realistic approach to immigration that preserves the United States as Western and First World Nation,” she said. “We are better off if we are dominated numerically … by people from the First World, from the West, than by people who are from less advanced countries.”

She said her position was not racist because her problem with nonwhite immigrants was cultural, not racial.

Ruger denounced Wax’s comments at the time, saying in a statement that “at best” Wax’s comments “espouse a bigoted theory of white cultural and ethnic supremacy; at worst, they are racist” and “repugnant.”

Her July statement marks the second time in as many years Wax’s inflammatory rhetoric has cast the Ivy League law school in a bad light.

In a video interview from 2017 that surfaced in 2018, Wax told Brown University professor Glen Loury, who is Black, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of he class, and rarely, rarely in the top half. I can think of two students that have scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”

Ruger disputed that statement. He also disallowed Wax from teaching first-year law students.

And while Ruger and Penn have distanced themselves from Wax and her words, they have acknowledged her rights to free speech. University administrators have not talked publicly about removing Wax from her role.

John N. Mitchell is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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