In an interview with journalist Glen Loury last month, Wax said immigration presented a “danger of the dominance of an Asian elite in this country,” among other offensive remarks.
Ruger issued a statement Monday distancing the law school from Wax, who is tenured. The dean said Wax’s comments were “thoroughly anti-intellectual and racist,” and that they “inflict harm” on the campus community by “perpetuating stereotypes.”
Wax, 68, has drawn the ire of University of Pennsylvania students for making similar comments as far back as 2017. Though critics have demanded she be ousted, Ruger has noted that her tenured position on the faculty makes her difficult to remove and all-but impossible to outright fire.
Penn Law Prof. Amy Wax Under Fire
Wax made the offensive comments in an appearance on Loury’s webshow on Dec. 20 during a discussion about immigration.
“If you go into medical schools, you’ll see that Indians, South Asians are now rising stars,” the law professor said.
“In medicine, they’re sort of the new Jews, I guess, but these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are poisoning the scientific establishment and the medical establishment now.”
Loury, himself a professor of social sciences at Brown University, pushed back on Wax’s controversial comments.
“What would be wrong with having a lot of Chinese or Indian or Korean engineers, physicians, computer scientists, and whatnot, running around here creating value, enlivening the society?” he asked.
But Wax appeared to double down, insisting that Asians who do immigrate to America should show more gratitude for the opportunity.
“Why should someone who emigrated from India, has taken advantage of everything our society has to offer, who is leading the good life, who’s part of the elite — why shouldn’t that person be objectively grateful? And, you know, recognize overtly all the wonderful things about our country?” said Wax, who is a child of immigrants herself.
On Sunday, Loury published on his blog an email from a listener who was upset about Wax’s racist remarks. He gave the law professor a chance to respond.
She wrote: “Maybe it’s just that Democrats love open borders, and Asians want more Asians here. Perhaps they (and especially their distaff element) are just mesmerized by the feel-good cult of ‘diversity.’ I don’t know the answer. But as long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.”
Penn Law Dean Responds
In his statement on Monday, an exasperated Dean Ruger blasted Wax’s comments as racist, ignorant and inappropriate.
“Once again, Amy Wax has, through her thoroughly anti-intellectual and racist comments denigrating Asian immigrants, underscored a fundamental tension around harmful speech at American universities,” Ruger wrote.
“As we have previously emphasized, Wax’s views are diametrically opposed to the policies and ethos of this institution,” he said, adding that the remarks “serve as a persistent and tangible reminder that racism, sexism, and xenophobia […] are real and insidious beliefs in this country and in our building.”
The dean made no mention of punishment for Wax, and he noted her position at the law school is protected by her tenure.
In general, Ruger said, tenured status has historically “protect[ed] the voices of scholars on a range of controversial topics including those who are actively challenging racism, sexism, and other inequities in society.”
But the “same academic freedom principles” that protects those scholars, he wrote, “also apply to faculty like Wax who voice xenophobic and white supremacist views.”