Penn Law professor Amy Wax may soon face sanctions from university administrators over comments she made about Asian immigrants last month

In an interview on journalist Glenn Loury’s Web show in December, Wax warned of a supposed “danger of the dominance of an Asian elite in this country.” When a viewer sent a letter to Loury disputing Wax’s claims, the professor issued a reply saying that the United States would be “better off with fewer Asians.” 

At the time, Penn Law dean Theodore Ruger called the 68-year-old professor’s remarks “thoroughly anti-intellectual and racist,” claiming she had “inflict[ed] harm” on the campus community by “perpetuating stereotypes.”

However, he noted that Wax’s position was tenured and that her removal would be a long and arduous process. 

Penn Law professor Amy Wax was called racist for saying the U.S. needs fewer Asian immigrants.
Penn Law professor Amy Wax is now under threat of sanction by university administrators for her latest remarks about Asian immigrants. Photo credit: Google Maps

This week, the dean began that process. “Professor Amy Wax has repeatedly made derogatory public statements about the characteristics, attitudes, and abilities of a majority of those who study, teach, and work here,” Ruger wrote in a message to students and faculty on Tuesday. 

“The complaints assert that it is impossible for students to take classes from her without a reasonable belief that they are being treated with discriminatory animus,” he continued

“Taking her public behavior, prior complaints, and more recent complaints together, I have decided it is my responsibility as Dean to initiate the University procedure governing sanctions taken against a faculty member.”

Penn Law Professor May Face Sanctions, Dean Says

Ruger said in his statement Tuesday that was initiating the process of faculty review, which must occur before any “major or minor” actions can be taken against Wax, per Penn Law’s policies. 

The school’s employee handbook states that minor sanctions could include a letter of reprimand, while more serious punishments could include suspension or termination. 

Speaking to NBC News on Thursday, a Penn Law spokesperson declined to say what sanctions the dean intends to levy against Wax. 

Dean Theodore Ruger said Amy Wax was racist and anti-intellectual
Dean Theodore Ruger said Penn Law professor Amy Wax may face sanctions for her racist comments on a YouTube interview last month. Photo credit: Penn Law

“At this time, as required by the University Handbook, and to preserve the integrity of the process, we will not make any public statements about the charges and proceedings until they have been completed,” they said

No timeline was given for the faculty review process, and Ruger is on record saying that Wax’s tenure will make implementing any disciplinary measure lengthy and difficult. 

“This process is necessarily thorough and deliberate,” the dean said this week, “but using it allows consideration of the range of minor and major sanctions permissible under the University’s rules.

Amy Wax Controversy Dates Back Years

While the fallout from Wax’s comments on Loury’s show may be the fiercest she’s ever faced, the Penn Law professor is no stranger to controversy. 

In 2017, she raised eyebrows with an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer that called for a return to 1950s cultural norms. The same year, she told the Daily Pennsylvanian that people of color would do well to adopt the “bourgeois values” of white Americans. 

She drew outrage nationally in 2018, when she posted a YouTube video arguing that it was “unfair” for Christine Blasey Ford to accuse then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. 

“I think it violates principles of basic fair play for her to be bringing this up. I think she should have held her tongue — if I were her, I would have. I think basic dignity and fairness dictates that, you know, it’s too late, Ms. Ford, even if there would have been consequences to bitching about it at the time,” she said

Amy Wax likely won't be fired from Penn Law any time soon, because she is tenured, the dean has said.
Penn Law professor Amy Wax is facing sanctions for her most recent controversy, but she’s drawn the ire of the campus community for years. Photo credit: Penn Law

Responding to a viewer who disagreed with her remarks in the December Loury interview, Wax said Asian immigrants should only be welcome to the U.S. if they vote the way she likes. 

“Maybe it’s just that Democrats love open borders, and Asians want more Asians here,” she wrote. “Perhaps they (and especially their distaff element) are just mesmerized by the feel-good cult of ‘diversity.’ I don’t know the answer.” 

The professor continued: “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.”