Law prof ousted from first-year classes after saying black students never graduated top of their class

Posted at 3:35 PM, Mar 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 15:35:46-04

A University of Pennsylvania Law School professor has been removed from teaching mandatory first-year courses after making derogatory remarks about the academic performance of black students.

During an interview last fall, professor Amy Wax said that black students at Penn Law never graduated in the top quarter of their class.

“Here is 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 told Brown University professor Glenn Loury in a video of the interview that recently gained attention.

When asked to elaborate, Wax said she was basing her numbers on personal data.

“I have a class of 89, 95 students every year. I see a big chunk of students every year — so I am going on that, because a lot of this data is a closely guarded secret.”

She also claimed that Penn Law had racial diversity mandates for the prestigious law review.

At one point, Wax suggested that some African-American students shouldn’t attend college at all.

“We’re not saying they shouldn’t go to college, we are not saying that. … I mean some of them shouldn’t.”

Wax had earlier attracted controversy when she co-wrote an August editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer lamenting “the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.” It noted “the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.”

After news about the video emerged, the Penn Law Black Law Students Association drafted a petition calling for Wax to be removed from teaching the required first-year classes and from serving on certain committees at the law school. The group also raised concerns by creating hashtags on social media.

Nick Hall, the president of Black Law Students Association, met with law school Dean Ted Ruger and his deputies March 1 regarding the video interview and the school’s response to it.

“This is about the resilience of black Penn Law students to rise against bigotry,” Hall told CNN.

In the wake of the outcry, Ruger issued a statement Tuesday saying that Wax would no longer teach mandatory first-year classes at the law school but would continue to teach elective courses in her area of expertise.

“It is imperative for me as dean to state that these claims are false: (B)lack students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law, and the Law Review does not have a diversity mandate,” Ruger wrote.

“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.”

The dean’s statement also said that Penn Law does not permit the public disclosure of grades or class rankings, and does not collect or publicize grade performance by racial groups.

It said that Penn’s policies of free and open expression as well as academic freedom protects Wax and that he defends the rights of those in the law school community to express their views openly.

“Professor Wax enjoys the same status as every other tenured colleague here: (H)er job, salary, seniority, and opportunity to teach a full load of courses remains secure. She is scheduled to teach a full course load in the next academic year.”