AFA Sends Letter to Penn on Amy Wax Case
Letter states that Wax should face no formal consequences for controversial comments
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to president Amy Gutmann in defense of the academic freedom rights of law school Professor Amy Wax. In a December 20 podcast interview, Professor Wax stated that “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.” Law school Dean Ted Ruger issued a statement noting that Wax’s comments are protected by principles of academic freedom. But after students and local politicians have demanded that Wax be fired, the university has more recently indicated that unspecified “action” is under consideration.
“I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that Professor Wax should suffer no formal consequences as the result of these public statements,” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s academic committee, in the letter to President Gutmann. “Regardless of what one thinks about Professor Wax’s personal political views, the only appropriate action that the University of Pennsylvania should take in this situation is to publicly reaffirm the free speech rights of the members of its faculty.”
Whittington continued, “It is quite clear that her public comments as a private individual on matters of public concern cannot, consistent with Article 11 [of the Statutes of the Trustees at Penn] and general understandings of free speech in the United States, be understood to constitute a ‘flagrant disregard of the standards, rules, or mission of the University or the customs of scholarly communities’ that might give rise to disciplinary action under the Faculty Handbook, and the list of major infractions provided in the Handbook in no way resemble the actions at issue here.”
- The AFA’s letter to the University of Pennsylvania
- Coverage of the case in the Philadelphia Inquirer
- AAUP’s Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, stating that when professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.