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Tables Turned: Prof. Amy Wax, Charged With Wrongthink, Files Counter-Grievance Against U Penn Law Dean

Tables Turned: Prof. Amy Wax, Charged With Wrongthink, Files Counter-Grievance Against U Penn Law Dean

Wax filing: “The Dean’s charges are nothing more than an attempt to use the sanction process … as a means of punishing and silencing the most powerful dissenting voice on campus and preventing students from being exposed to important conservative ideas.”

Dissident UPenn Law Professor Amy Wax and her lawyer, David Shapiro, have taken the offensive in the University’s battle to terminate her by filing a Grievance against law school Dean Ted Ruger with the Faculty Grievance Commission.

The Grievance, submitted simultaneously with a major reply memorandum, is a potentially game-changing development in the proceedings instituted by Dean Ruger over six months ago.

As Shapiro put it when we spoke this week, “Amy Wax has gone from being defendant to charging party in her own case.”

We’ve been covering Wax’s conflict with PennLaw from the very beginning, when she triggered the woke campus mob by unapologetically expressing conservative views in a 2017 op-ed:

As we reported in September, rather than engage her in discussion and debate, students and faculty demanded that an all-too-willing Dean Ruger fire her for being a “racist.”

And that, says Shapiro, is what makes Wax’s case “sui generis”: The University is trying to fire a tenured professor for her speech.

It was not long before the dean caved to the students’ demands and took up their cause in the conflict that escalated as Wax continued to voice her unorthodox views over the years. Finally, this past June he submitted a letter to the Faculty Senate calling for a review of Wax’s conduct for violation of University policy under the Faculty Handbook and a “major sanction” including possible loss of tenure and termination.

There is virtually no precedent for stripping a professor of tenure at UPenn. And what little exists arises out of egregious conduct, as we wrote here: One professor apparently lost his position after being convicted of murdering his wife. Another is rumored to have involved gross dereliction of academic duties.

But the sanctions on Prof. Wax threatened by the dean are not based on her conduct; they’re based on her opinions, as Shapiro argues in the Grievance:

The charges are all based on statements Prof. Wax is alleged to have made inside and outside the classroom related to her academic role; materials she assigned in her class; her invitation to a guest speaker for that class; statements in her various writings; and opinions she has expressed in her academic capacity and in media appearances.

Here’s what Dean Ruger’s charges are not about: they do not allege that Prof. Wax had an inappropriate relationship with a student. They do not allege financial improprieties. They do not allege a physical attack. They do not allege that she ever uttered epithets, used racial slurs, or engaged in personal, ad hominem attacks. They do not accuse her of plagiarism, dereliction of any academic duties, or any actions that would constitute a major sanction under the Handbook.

In sum, the allegations in the charges do not concern behavior or actions but only expression. The only thing that the charges allege is that her speech and expressions of unpopular or controversial opinions require a major sanction, including possible loss of tenure and termination.

Dean’s Charges Are Attacks On Wax’s Academic Freedom and Belong Before the Grievance Commission

By recasting Wax’s free expression as “conduct,” the dean hopes to haul the once-esteemed professor before the Hearing Board and threaten her—and anyone else who dares challenge the woke campus ideology—with termination.

But no matter how Dean Ruger repackages them, Shapiro says the charges are attacks on Wax’s academic freedoms and freedom of expression—freedoms guaranteed by the University’s own standards and policies, especially for tenured professors like Wax.

And under the University’s own rules, charges that concern academic freedoms are outside the jurisdiction of the Faculty Senate. The proper venue for the Dean’s charges is the Commission and the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom & Responsibility (“SCAFR”), they say. Once those charges are before the Commission, it will be a whole new ball game.

The Grievance Commission Will Force the Dean to Prove His Case—Or Drop It

Charges related to academic freedom, speech, and expression must be adjudicated by the Commission and SCAFR pursuant to their rules, Shapiro says. That means the dean will have to actually prove his case against Wax—or drop it.

As we wrote here last September, the dean accused Wax of “racism” after she claimed that she had rarely seen a black student graduate in the top half of the class. He labeled these statements “false” or “inaccurate,” and used them to justify terminating her.

To defend herself against Dean Ruger’s charges that she made false statements, Wax and Shapiro have argued that Prof. Wax must be permitted access to documentary information on, among other things, the grades and class standing of Black Law School students.

And yet, after all this time, and despite repeated requests for data on grading distribution at UPenn Law, the dean still refuses to produce any concrete evidence to prove her wrong.

The Grievance Commission, however, would require the dean to come forward with that evidence, Wax and Shapiro explained. According to the Commission’s own procedures, as explained in the University Handbook:

If documentary evidence is needed by the grievant . . . in the preparation of . . . her case . . . application will be made to the Presiding Officer. . . . The Presiding Officer will then obtain all relevant evidence. All such evidence will be available to the panel, the respondent, the colleagues, and …  to the grievant.

Most importantly, Shapiro argues, as per the SCAFR procedures, the Commission will insist on complete transparency:

[N]o evidence will be considered without disclosure to both sides. If a witness does not wish such disclosure, he or she will not be permitted to testify and the proffered testimony will not be considered[.]

So the stonewalling will have to stop once the parties are before the Commission, as the Grievance demands. If Wax succeeds in moving the proceedings there, and Dean Ruger still refuses to make the records on grades and class standing by race available to Professor Wax, he will not be permitted to testify at the Grievance hearing. “Specifically,” they say, “he cannot be heard to claim that Prof. Wax made inaccurate statements about law student performance by race”—the basis for his charge that she be fired.

The Dean’s War of Attrition Against Wax

Meanwhile, Dean Ruger has found other ways to make life miserable for Wax while her tenure and livelihood hang in the balance.

What he has not been able to accomplish through due process—firing her—he has sought to achieve by waging a war of attrition against her.

Ruger had already stripped her of first-year teaching responsibilities in March 2018, taking away her mandatory first-year Civil Procedure course. Wax says that she was also removed from all committee assignments within the Law School, “without valid justification based on unfounded allegations of ‘bias.’”

By December of last year, the school newspaper gloated over the decline in enrollment in her remaining classes.  The dean was behind that, too, Wax and Shapiro say: He deliberately created courses on the same topics as the ones she teaches to discourage students from enrolling in her classes.

These actions are “an attempt to stifle her expression and undermine her standing as a Penn professor and academic” and would be reason alone to justify a grievance.

The Grievance’s Requests For Relief

The Grievance asks for the Faculty Senate proceedings to be terminated and for the harm caused by the Dean’s many attacks on Wax to be redressed and corrected by the Grievance Commission.

From the conclusion and relief requested:

  1. All proceedings before the Faculty Senate on Dean Ruger’s charges against Prof. Wax are immediately halted and the proceedings formally terminated.
  2. Dean Ruger’s charges against Prof. Wax are withdrawn in their entirety.
  3. Dean Ruger is ordered to restore Professor Wax’s teaching responsibilities for First Year Civil Procedure.
  4. Dean Ruger is ordered to stop publicly condemning Prof. Wax for her comments, opinions, and speech and must instead instruct objecting students and others on Prof. Wax’s rights under University rules and her tenure contract to express her opinion freely without penalty, discipline, or sanction of any kind, and should encourage University Members to rebut or debate her views if they so desire.
  5. Dean Ruger is ordered to comply with all of the requests for information found in Prof. Wax’s Aug. Memo, including by not limited to arranging for an outside examination of student grades by race, as pertinent to his allegations that Professor Wax spoke “falsely” on the topic.
  6. Dean Ruger is ordered to stop stating that students can expect Prof. Wax to be “biased” against minority students, and to correct the record by declaring publicly that there is no evidence of any such bias.
  7. Dean Ruger is ordered to cease creating and authorizing courses that are redundant of the subjects that Professor Wax teaches in the law school.
  8. The Commission and SCAFR should order or take any further action appropriate and necessary to correct the academic freedom violations and harms inflicted by Dean Ruger on Penn Law and Professor Wax.

Wax and Shapiro point out that UPenn is expending substantial resources, engaging the services of premier law firm Quinn Emanuel, on a case which never should have been brought and in which they have no proof. But if  the Commission follows UPenn policies on academic freedom and tenure, and if they conduct themselves professionally and rationally, the charges should be dropped.

Those are big ifs.

If, however, the University goes forward with a hearing and sanctions Prof. Wax without releasing exculpatory evidence like information on grades by race, she will have a breach of contract claim.  That is because, as a tenured professor, school policy guarantees her a proceeding which is fundamentally fair.

And that much seems certain.


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Morning Sunshine | January 26, 2023 at 7:11 pm

I thought the WHOLE point of tenure was to be able to say unpopular things and not loose your job. Am I misremembering? It has been a few decades since I cared about about college politics (but while I was there, it was FUN!)

Mao, Pol Pot, etc are so disappointed in this action.

The saddest part is that those creating this ideological non-sense seldom, if ever, suffer the consequences of their actions. until we truly pass on accountability, we will continue to waste treasure on non-sense.

    henrybowman in reply to Corky M. | January 26, 2023 at 9:59 pm

    Yup. I’m so old, I remember when all you had to do was prove that a professor wore glasses. Then you could take him out and have him shot.

      Milhouse in reply to henrybowman. | January 26, 2023 at 11:43 pm

      When the Japanese occupied Singapore they checked the Chinese people’s hands. Anyone with smooth hands was likely an intellectual, so they were killed. Rough hands meant a laborer, who was safe to keep alive and use for labor.

        danvillemom in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2023 at 8:34 am

        My husband’s family is from Singapore. When the Japanese rounded them up, they placed them in horse stalls. My in-laws were shop owners, so the daughters were instructed to rub dirt on their face, hands and clothes so they would not be attractive to the Japanese soldiers. The women and children stayed in the stalls for a week before they were allowed to return home.

Has Oberlin College taught them nothing? Or is Dean Ruger just a misogynist prick? Or was Professor Wax caught reading Harry Potter?

Yes, the old concept of college was that it was where people went to express and debate their opinions, and let those opinions grow or die in the process.

Now we have leftists that demand only one opinion, and cancel all others.

I believe much of this came from the demise of history programs, or the development of fake history, like the farcical “1619 project.”

Ibram Kendi’s use of blatant racism to “fight” racism adds to the mix, as does the ludicrous concept of “white fragility” as espoused by Robin Diangelo (full disclosure: I knew her when she was at a small MA state college, and she was bat guano crazy back then. She is completely over the edge now.

She doesn’t see the irony in being lectured by a woman that is as white as a sheet of printer paper.

The dean is going to find out he hitched himself to the wrong wagon.

SeekingRationalThought | January 26, 2023 at 10:06 pm

when you combine Penn’s persecution of Professor Wax with the obvious corruption (not to say treason) surrounding the Biden Center, the University of Pennsylvania is competing with the FBI to be the most corrupt and useless institution in the United States. How pathetic.

Good for Amy Wax! With this, she proves her skill in procedural knife-fighting, which after all is a large part of effective lawyering. Students need to have this “voice” teaching them to be effective within the legalistic ecosystem, as well as more abstract philosophical ideas.

Penn is a private institution, so it’s not bound by the first amendment. But it is bound by its contracts, which include a guarantee of academic freedom, so it still loses.

    FrankJNatoli in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2023 at 6:05 am

    “Penn is a private institution, so it’s not bound by the first amendment.”
    So, once again, if Penn publicly stated that a black professor was being driven out because that professor was black, that’s OK with you?
    And the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter was legally correct denying service to Negroes?

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to FrankJNatoli. | January 27, 2023 at 7:21 am

      He’s stating a fact, Milhouse, not that with which he is okay.

        FrankJNatoli in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | January 27, 2023 at 11:19 am

        Sir, I asked Milhouse two questions, not making any assumptions, and he has not replied. One of his similar “private institutions are not bound by any civil rights laws” thinkers a few weeks ago answered in the affirmative, denying people service by color was legally correct, then and now.

          Henry P in reply to FrankJNatoli. | January 27, 2023 at 1:07 pm

          If I stand on a corner and make a speech supporting slavery, I have First Amendment protection from punishment by the state or federal government, despite its reprehensible position. If I happen to be an employee at Penn (a private institution) and make the same speech, assuming there are no contractual provisions to the contrary, Penn as a private institution can fire me, and I have no First Amendment protections for that speech.
          If Penn fires a professor solely because he is black, it is subject to all the sanctions permitted by civil rights laws, and this has nothing to do with First Amendment issues. There generally is no exemption from civil rights laws for private institutions.
          The former situation is based on the Constitution and its effects on public institutions and the latter is based on federal statutes and its effects on both.

    Arminius in reply to Milhouse. | January 27, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Does it receive any public funding? Then it is in fact bound by the 1st Amendment. The reason conservative Hillsdale college accepts on public funding of any kind is precisely because it did it would be subject to the dictates of the state.

A few years ago, I attended a presentation by Professor Wax in Manhattan. She is the very model of what most of us would hope a law school professor to be. And she has a sense of humor, with a great smile. I am very happy that, at least for the moment, she is refusing to let the bastards wear her down, and is fighting back.

Steven Brizel | January 27, 2023 at 6:12 am

It is great that Wax went in the offensive

MoeHowardwasright | January 27, 2023 at 6:27 am

Let’s see..
Pedophile coach, check
Laundering CCP money for extra Vice President, check
Trans athlete, check
Violates 1st amendment and hides failing students of color in law school, check.
Looks like they have covered all the bases for out woking every other college.

Wax’s energy will not wane until she upends the status quo.

I wouldn’t hire an Ivy grad for a job at gun point.

So basically it’s Wax on, Wax off.

Claude Coupé | January 27, 2023 at 2:58 pm

If these are the things that are known publicly about Penn, just imagine all the Krazy that goes on daily. That we don’t hear about.

Bottom line would seem to be:

If you have what it takes to be offered admission at Penn, apparently the worst thing you could do for yourself next would be to enroll at Penn.

    Another Voice in reply to Claude Coupé. | January 27, 2023 at 5:06 pm

    Then there is this;The Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and the search for even more classified papers. It has to be said this university has a history of supporting a elitist left agendas and those who would demonize any group or people who subscribe to a different set of standards.