In the wake of the University of Pennsylvania Law School punishing professor Amy Wax for her controversial comments about black student graduation rankings, a prominent Penn trustee emeritus announced his resignation in a damning letter to the school over its treatment of Wax.
Penn Trustee Emeritus and Penn Law School Overseer Paul Levy wrote in his Friday resignation letter to Penn President Amy Gutmann that "preventing Wax from teaching first-year students doesn't right academic or social wrongs. Rather, you are suppressing what is crucial to the liberal educational project: open, robust and critical debate over differing views of important social issues."
Levy added that "Penn Law has entered the world of microaggressions and 'snowflakes' and that is not a world I choose to be part of" and that "a serious error has been made; please reconsider this illiberal ban on Wax's pedagogy."
How did this all start?
Wax gave a video interview to Brown University Professor Glenn Loury last September — and one particular quote stood out when the clip resurfaced last month.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class and rarely, rarely in the top half," Wax said. "I can think of one or two students who’ve scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”
Penn Law School Dean Theodore Ruger countered once the video surfaced — notably after students and alumni called on him to take a stand against Wax, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
“Black students have graduated in the top of the class,” Ruger wrote in response to Wax’s words in an email to the school community. The professor was then banned from teaching first-year lecture classes.
Penn spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy told the Daily Pennsylvanian that the administration stands by Ruger's decision to take action against Wax.
What else did Levy say in his letter?
Levy's three-page, scathing resignation letter recounted Wax getting attacked and "gang[ed] up on" for her viewpoints — and then he informed Penn's president that faculty members have "privately ... told me that their experiences match those of Wax."
He also asked, "What is the University there for? It can't be to preside over an 'I'm okay-you're okay,' back-slapping, Pollyanna culture."
"It is not acceptable that a professor with Wax's scholarly and teaching stature and litigation experience (15 arguments before the Supreme Court) should be barred from teaching civil procedure just because some students might be uncomfortable in her class," Levy also noted. "Her exam is a multiple choice, computer-graded exam so there can be no plausible argument that she grades discriminatorily."
He added: "This is not good publicity for Penn. Punishing Wax for some students' subjective feelings of discomfort is unprincipled and has no limit. There is not a shred of evidence that Wax treats her students unequally. Removing Wax from the required curriculum sends a clear message to the entire university community: If you express unpopular views, even though there is no evidence that the learning environment is compromised, you will be punished."
More from the Daily Pennsylvanian:
Levy, a 1972 Penn Law graduate, chaired the Board of Overseers from 2001 to 2007. His wife, Karen Levy, is a trustee emerita of Brown University and a trustee of the Juilliard School of Music and Rockefeller University. Both have donated large amounts to the University including gifts for the Levy Scholars Program and the reconstruction of the Levy Conference Center.
Their daughters, 2003 College graduate Rebecca Levy Anikstein and Charlotte Levy, received law degrees from Penn in 2009.
In 2016, Penn honored Levy with an Alumni Award of Merit noting his extensive contributions to the University.
He also helped to organize a fundraising campaign – “Bold Ambitions: The Campaign for Penn Law” – for his alma mater under former Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts, which greatly exceeded donation goals by millions.
How else has Wax made headlines?
Wax stirred things up last year as the co-author of a Philly.com op-ed in which she blasted “single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks” as well as “the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.”
In a follow-up interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian, Wax noted that Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior.
“I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior,’” she told the paper, adding that “everyone wants to come to the countries that exemplify” these values and that “everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.” Numerous folks didn’t take kindly her views.
(H/T: The College Fix)