Short Take: Has Penn Lawprof Amy Wax Lost Her Gloss?

Paul Caron notes that University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax won a prestigious award.

In 2015, Professor Wax received the University of Pennsylvania’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (only three other Penn law professors have received the award in the past twenty years).

On the one hand, this informs us that she must have been a pretty damn good teacher, which isn’t something one necessarily finds among academics. Ironic, sure, but they’re loved for their scholarship far more than their ability to do the job of teaching students.

On the other hand, so what? Had Amy Wax not won this bourgeois distinguished teaching award, would it then be fine that the students of the Penn law school chapter of the National Lawyers Guild wanted to banish her?

While we do not challenge Professor Wax’s right to express her views, we question whether it is appropriate for her to continue to teach a required first-year course. The Penn Law administration has long been aware that her bigoted views inevitably seep into her words and actions in the classroom and in private conversations with students. We call on the administration to consider more deeply the toll that this takes on students, particularly students of color and members of the LGBTQIA community, and to consider whether it is in the best interests of the school and its students for Professor Wax to continue to teach a required first-year class.

What “toll” does it take to have Wax teach the very controversial first-year class of . . . civ pro? For background, every student takes civil procedure in the first year, and they have no choice to opt out because they don’t want to be taught by a particular prawf. This means that students will be forced, against their will, to learn from this horrible professor. Not horrible in her teaching, apparently, but horrible in her soul. After all, did she not argue that traditional American values were, you know, good? So racist and sexist, and certainly a few other -ists as well.

Exposure to a diversity of viewpoints is an essential and valuable part of any educational experience, but no student should have to be exposed to bigotry or abuse in the classroom.

The Gertruding doesn’t cover the hole in the argument. No one suggests, or has ever suggested, that Wax spouts racism in her civ pro lectures, even if there was an opportunity to do so. Of course, given the breadth of what could be deemed racism, either directly or via the chaos theory of sensitivity, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Can property law prawfs still use Whiteacre and Blackacre, or is this a microaggression?

But when the NLG says “exposed” to bigotry, they mean in the presence of a person they’ve decided is a bigot. It would be traumatic to students to be inside a classroom with Amy Wax. She is the embodiment of bigotry, whose racism rays emanate outward into the hearts of unduly sensitive students.

As for abuse, I got nothing. Are they suggesting she walks the room with a yardstick, being the hands of transgender law students for kicks? Or is it nothing more than the fear that this known bigot who believes that bourgeois values are better than no values might utter a word that could float by their ears and make them ball up in a corner and cry?

There was little doubt after Wax and Larry Alexander wrote their op-ed extolling bourgeois values that they would be burned at the stake for it, all while their inquisitors proclaimed their adoration of free speech. And the Gang of 33 made clear that it would not tolerate a heretic in its midst. But at least the Academy, as well as the NLG kidz, will believe in the right of scholars to present diverse views, right before they’re banished in unwoke disgrace.

Professor Amy Wax is no more, but no less, the scholar and teacher she was before the op-ed. That means nothing in a world where no deviation from orthodoxy is tolerated.

32 comments on “Short Take: Has Penn Lawprof Amy Wax Lost Her Gloss?

  1. delurking

    “No one suggests, or has ever suggested, that Wax spouts racism in her civ pro lectures, even if there was an opportunity to do so.”

    But this is exactly what they suggest, is it not? “The Penn Law administration has long been aware that her bigoted views inevitably seep into her words and actions in the classroom…”

    This may be ridiculous, or it may not be (though it almost certainly is), but there is nothing new about this type of complaint. Certainly, those on the right continuously make similar claims about left-leaning professors.

    1. SHG Post author

      You make two very different points, though you’ve conflated them. The suggestion as to Wax is that they “inevitably seep” into her lectures, a curious choice of words designed to avoid the inability to affirmatively state that she does anything substantively inappropriate. I, on the other hand, wrote “spouts racism,” a deliberate choice of words designed to assert that she does not engage in any actual racist speech or actions. The difference matters, even though it eluded you.

      And your second point, that “Certainly, those on the right continuously make similar claims about left-leaning professors,” is a false comparison, which you’ve glossed over. There is a huge difference between openly infusing a course with a political value system (i.e., the criminal justice system is racist and oppressive) and a person believed to be a bigot teaching otherwise uncontroversial black letter law. Unfortunately, as your comment reveals, some people lack the capacity to grasp these critical distinctions. Too many of them find their way to law school these days, now that the smart kids have no interest in going anymore.

  2. REvers

    “Can property law prawfs still use Whiteacre and Blackacre, or is this a microaggression?”

    My property prof used Greenacre a lot. It was the place to be.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      Neither Wax or the NLG are comrades. If only there was an organized, principled left in the U.S. What happened to them again? Oh, right.

      Have you now or ever been accused of being a bigot? Purity tests are the best tests.

        1. PseudonymousKid

          They aren’t socialist or communist is all I meant. They are progressives with too much time on their hands. The real question is whether they are hypocritical wimps or wimpy hypocrites.

  3. Erik H

    Civ Pro? They’re complaining about $%ing CIV PRO?

    I mean, sure, perhaps if she was teaching an advanced seminar in Con Law you might expect that she would be discussing some topic where her opinion was germane. I still would support leaving her alone but at least the whiners could cogently discuss some perspective she presented, which they disliked.

    But where could anyone possibly be racist when explaining differences between a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and a Rule 56 motion? Or discussing in-state presence w/r/t diversity jurisdiction? Shit, my Civ Pro professor could have been a founding member of the Antifa or of the local KKK chapter and I would not have known either way.

    It was one of my favorite classes, but seriously, it’s basically a logic class with a lot of special rules. What could they possibly be talking about?

    1. Keith

      But where could anyone possibly be racist when explaining differences between a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and a Rule 56 motion?

      Are you serious? A Rule rule that requires accepting the facts in a light most preferable to the non-moving party? I can’t even. I demand you admit she’s a racist.

    2. Etc.

      Erik, isn’t it obvious to you that the American system of civil procedure is merely another mechanism by which White, hetero, cis-gendered, upper-class men ensure that the social and legal hierarchy is dominated by other White, hetero, cis-gendered, upper-class men? And isn’t it obvious that a professor who extols the virtues of “bourgeois values” would only teach such a class in a manner that presumes the legitimacy of such a system, rather than use it to further the “conversation” that things like filing deadlines, limits to class certification and, yes, even rules requiring that the court accepts facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party are all tools of the patriarchy designed to make it more complicated and burdensome for marginalized individuals to achieve justice through the courts. Honestly Erik, it isn’t obvious to you that courts shouldn’t accept facts in the light most favorable to the most historically disadvantaged party? For shame!

    3. Jim Tyre

      Diversity jurisdiction is inherently bigoted. I lack sufficient fingers and toes to count the number of parties one might need to achieve complete diversity. But it’s impossible in a two party lawsuit.

        1. Elpey P.

          If you get stuck at one, is that a single party lawsuit? Or as some folks call it, a solo flight. This list is getting longer than a euphemism for something really long.

          I think the great and erudite Chuck Berry said it best:
          Those who count with LPPs
          Must be buying their own groceries

            1. Jim Tyre

              In the circumstances, this result cannot be unfair to Mr. Lodi. Although it is true that, as plaintiff and appellant, he loses, it is equally true that, as defendant and respondent, he wins! It is hard to imagine a more even handed application of justice. Truly, it would appear that Oreste Lodi is that rare litigant who is assured of both victory and defeat regardless of which side triumphs.

              Lodi v. Lodi, 173 Cal.App.3d 628 (1985)

  4. PseudonymousKid

    To be fair, when doesn’t a mention of civpro make you shake? Wait until you get to the oppression that is discovery.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      This was a reply. I failed your stupid captcha (19+27? What do you think they taught me in law school?) and it bumped my reply out to a general comment. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      [Ed. Note: Thank you for adding this. It appears your mother and I did a better job raising you than we thought.]

      1. Richard Kopf

        PK,

        Bumping by the CAPTCHA just got me too on another post. I fear SHG is playing mind (math) games with the disabled.

        All the best.

        RGK

        1. SHG Post author

          If you put on those special Ben Franklin specs they give you along with the robe, you will see the magic writing in Article III that says you get a clerk to do all your math for you. You’re welcome.

  5. Tom

    “But at least the Academy, as well as the NLG kidz, will believe in the right of scholars to prevent diverse views, right before they’re banished in unwoke disgrace.”

    Can I safely assume that “prevent” is a well-played Freudian slip.

  6. B. McLeod

    This LGBT thing seems to get more letters padded on all the time. Already, they have surpassed M.O.U.S.E.

  7. Matt

    A similar “controversy” erupted over Prof. Richard Sander at UCLA. Apparently his empirical scholarship, which tended to show that affirmative action led to the admission of students who were relatively less prepared for law school than their peers, so traumatized students of color that they didn’t feel “safe” in his 1L property class.

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