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Penn Won't Punish Professor Who Said Black Students ‘Rarely’ Score Well

While the law school dropped her from a first-year course over her comments, they stood by her faculty position.

A University of Pennsylvania law professor will no longer teach a first-year lecture class after backlash to her claim that black students score lower than their counterparts.

Amy Wax, who made the racial inferiority argument in an interview last fall that resurfaced recently, will lose her duties teaching the introductory civil procedure class, Penn Law dean Ted Ruger announced Tuesday. He insisted the decision was not a penalty of any kind, and noted Wax will retain her faculty status, seniority and tenure. 

“She will be similarly situated to a substantial majority of our tenured and chaired faculty, most of whom do not teach required first-year courses,” Ruger said in an email to students.   

Ruger slammed Wax’s claim as false, but said she’s entitled to free expression and will continue teaching elective classes. 

“Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law,” Ruger told The Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper. “And contrary to any suggestion otherwise, black students at Penn Law are extremely successful, both inside and outside the classroom, in the job market, and in their careers.”

Wax cited her experience with the civil procedure class in an interview last fall with Brown University professor Glenn Loury. 

“Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn: 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 scored in the top half of my required first-year course.” She said the class has 89 to 95 students per year, “so I’m going on that because a lot of this data is a closely guarded secret.”

Ruger said Wax violated school policy by mentioning student grades to back up her argument. 

Alumni circulated an online petition this week urging Ruger to take action after Wax’s comments resurfaced. The professor’s claims are “in clear violation of the terms and spirit of Penn Law’s anonymous grading policy, and compromise the law school’s assurance that grades are maintained by the Registrar under strict scrutiny,” the petition says. 

Wax’s views on race ignited backlash even before her interview with Loury. In August, she wrote an op-ed published in The Philadelphia Inquirer that declared, “All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy.”

Wax declined to comment to HuffPost. She has defended her statements in the past, and doubled down on her argument in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, asserting that people seek to move to countries with “superior” bourgeois values.

“I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior.’ Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans,” she said.

More than 30 Penn law professors signed an open letter condemning Wax’s statements.

She has pushed back, however, arguing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month that hurling epithets at people who promote unpopular views is wrong. 

This story has been updated to include an additional statement from Penn Law clarifying that their decision was not a punishment, nor a “demotion,” as the headline in a previous version of this story stated.

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