Amy Wax looks back

Last year I wrote about the academic tempest aroused by Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander in “That which must not be said.” They aroused the tempest with this Philadelphia Inquirer column recapitulating a few home truths.

Professor Wax is the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She earned an M.D. degree from Harvard in addition to her J.D. degree from Columbia Law School. She holds an endowed chair at the law school. She must be one of the most prominent members of the faculty. I’m thinking she doesn’t need much in the way of instruction from her students or from her colleagues, for that matter.

Yet they have freely offered it, though the instruction was limited almost entirely to instruction to confess her thoughtcrime. Heather Mac Donald reviewed the unedifying response to Professor Wax’s column at the time in detail for National Review. Mac Donald’s NR column is outstanding.

Now Professor Wax herself looks back on the response to her column in the Imprimis essay adapted from a speech she gave at Hillsdale College. Professor Wax’s Impimis essay is “Are we free to discuss America’s real problems?” Hillsdale, it should be noted, is one campus on which home truths can still be thought, uttered, and even advocated in the spirit of free inquiry. That’s why Hillsdale invited Professor Wax to speak about her experience.

The Wall Street Journal picked up Professor Wax’s Imprimis essay to lead its Review section this past Saturday. The Journal published it under the heading “What can’t be debated on campus” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall, but, unlike the Imprimis version, including the relevant links). Among other things, the Journal’s version of Professor Wax’s essay added this paragraph with an update that was missing from Imprimis:

As for Penn, the calls to action against me continue. My law school dean recently asked me to take a leave of absence next year and to cease teaching a mandatory first-year course. He explained that he was getting “pressure” to banish me for my unpopular views and hoped that my departure would quell the controversy. When I suggested that it was his job as a leader to resist such illiberal demands, he explained that he is a “pluralistic dean” who must listen to and accommodate “all sides.”

Now that got my attention. You have got to be kidding me. Penn, as it happens, disputes that Professor Wax has been asked to take a leave next year. The observant reader will note, however, that the linked article reflects no dispute with Professor Wax’s account of the quoted explanation offered Professor Wax by the “pluralistic dean.” What a complete and utter disgrace.


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