AFA Urges Penn to Reject Proposed Sanctions Against Amy Wax

May 6, 2024 | Press Release

AFA Urges Penn to Reject Proposed Sanctions Against Amy Wax

Letter Urges Faculty Senate Committee to Reject Proposed Punishments

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance today sent a letter to the University of Pennsylvania’s Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR) urging it to reject proposed sanctions of Professor Amy Wax for protected speech. The letter follows two previous letters from the AFA, in January 2022 and July 2022, in defense of Professor Wax over controversies surrounding both her classroom teaching and extramural speech. Today, the AFA was made aware of the Penn Faculty Senate Hearing Board’s findings and recommendations that were sent to then-President Elizabeth McGill. This report details the Board’s conclusions and proposed punishment of Professor Wax, which moves the AFA to write a third time. 

“As the final arbiter, SCAFR has an opportunity to demonstrate Penn’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom,” said Lucas E. Morel, AFA Academic Committee Chair, in the AFA’s letter. “It can do so by rejecting categorically the Faculty Senate Hearing Board’s proposed sanctions of Professor Wax. The report’s charges of ‘flagrant unprofessional conduct’ and ‘controversial views’ that ‘inequitably impact the learning environment’ are a pretext to punish or force out Professor Wax. The economic and professional ‘sanctions’ cited in the report, including loss of pay and affiliation with the Penn Carey Law School, are not only unjust to Professor Wax, but they will create a chilling effect on professorial speech more broadly.”

The letter continued, “Our organization promotes a principled defense of academic freedom. Considering the events occurring on campuses in the last few months that have thrust higher education into the national spotlight, we believe that it is critically important to avoid selective protection of academic freedom. Viewpoint-discriminatory punishments of speech will continue to erode the public’s trust in institutions of higher education and provide more evidence of the hypocrisy of administrators at American colleges and universities.”

Additional Resources:
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.

Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.