Professor thinks banning these words would fix free speech on college campuses

By Kelsey Harkness | The Daily Signal

University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax is accustomed to political wrongthink.

Wax has a bachelor’s degree from Yale College, a medical degree from Harvard, and a law degree from Columbia. But none of those was enough to exempt her from being on the receiving end of a full-fledged campaign to get her fired. Nor was arguing 15 cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Justice Department, but that’s beside the point.

Wax doesn’t fear being called racist, sexist, or xenophobic, probably because she’s been called many of those names before. Instead of retreating to the safety of her tenure when things get tough, she doubles down–demanding debate, evidence, and accountability.

Students and colleagues alike have attacked Wax for making the apparently offensive case that traditional marriage values lead to better results for children, and for putting forth the radical argument that many of the country’s problems are a symptom of the breakdown of the “bourgeois culture” (the 1940s and ’50s way of life).

Amy Wax/Daily Signal

University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax

In making that argument, Wax addressed the fact that things weren’t perfect back then, but like clockwork, her critics called her “racist and classist” anyway.

The straw that really broke the camel’s back, however, happened when student activists searching for dirt on Wax unearthed a 2017 podcast interview she did with economist and Brown University professor Glenn Loury.

In the interview, Wax said this when addressing the issue of affirmative action: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of [my] class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half. I can think of one or two students who scored in the first half of my required first-year Civil Procedure course.”

Grades at the University of Pennsylvania are name-blind (meaning the instructor covers up students’ names prior to grading), so Wax says it’d be impossible to discriminate.

Critics jumped on her statement, interpreting it to mean “Amy Wax said black students can’t excel in law school.” Eventually, the University of Pennsylvania Law School relieved Wax of her teaching duties for first-year law students.

Last month, while speaking at The Heritage Foundation, Wax talked about the fallout of her politically incorrect statements in depth, and put forth tangible ideas about how to counter a radical, identity-based grievance culture that’s now rampant in university life.

First and foremost, Wax said, “Remind students that one of the central missions of the university, which justifies its existence, is to get at the truth.” She said:

That requires honest debate, patience, intellectual honesty, investigation, and a lot of hard work. But it also is not for the faint of heart. And that is a lesson that is almost never transmitted today. That offense, bruising thoughts, and unpleasant facts simply go with the territory. They are an intrinsic feature of an open society, and they never can be entirely avoided.

Next, Wax argued for censorship of speech—but not in the way you might think.

Here are her ideas, implemented as guidelines in her seminars and upper-level classes, lightly edited for clarity:

No one can be heard to say, ‘I’m offended.’ They all have permission to be offended. But they just can’t express it.

No one is allowed to accuse anyone else, in the classroom or out, dead or alive, of being racist, sexist, xenophobic, white supremist, or any other derisive, identity-based label. No slurs or name-calling. These don’t enlighten, educate, or edify. They add nothing. Give us an argument. Tell us why the other person is wrong.

No one can complain to administrators—those officious thought police—about anything said in class.

Finally, both the government and private donors need to rethink the lavish financial support for higher education, and especially for elite and selective institutions, which serve only a teeny-tiny portion of our population and which in many ways, I’m afraid, have become an anti-Western and anti-American liability.

How can we get the rich to see that supporting elite universities today might not be the wisest and more fruitful uses of their hard-earned money? What we need is a list of alternative causes and alternative institutions and goals for their money that help ordinary, average, unspecial people who have been unduly neglected by our elites and our increasingly walled off from them.

Wax expressed doubt that classrooms on college campuses would adopt these guidelines anytime soon.

“The question is whether there’s any hope of such protocols being implemented on a wide scale. In the current climate, I doubt it,” she said.

Until then, she expects the threat against politically incorrect professors will get worse.

“Professors who hold unpopular positions or state inconvenient facts are now considered psychologically toxic,” Wax said, adding:

If their presence causes offense, distress, feelings of insult, fears of ill treatment, that is enough to eject them from the classroom. And of course, these perceptions and feelings are subjective, they are self-confirming, they are immune from challenge. It’s all in the mind of the beholder. And the beholder’s mind reigns supreme.

Image courtesy of Amy Wax/Daily Signal
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11 thoughts on “Professor thinks banning these words would fix free speech on college campuses

  1. You have a glass. It has so much capacity. You fill it up. It can only fill up so high. Anymore liquid poured into the glass spills over and is lost. Wasted. Think of human brains as that glass and you are filling it with education. If your glass is only 4 ounces, don’t expect to fill it with 8 ounces. It will be a waste. That is what Affirmative Action is all about.

  2. For a real education take a look at Hillsdale College, Christendom College, or any of a handful of others who understand that they cannot benefit from government funds and still fulfill their true purpose.

    • OK, I’m unmasking as the cynic I really am. Personal experience here:

      A family member, already degreed BA, decided that pharmacy was the route to go; after an accelerated program, grad magna cum; now looking at THIRTY YEARS REPAYMENT SCHEDULE to repay the student loans accumulated.

      As you may surmise, the creditors are the big winners, along with the colleges that “adjust” their tuition schedules upward due to the increased availability of money. Granted that a pharmacist can earn fairly decent dough, it’s still the large part of adult life in debt. Now, howsabout those dumkins that take out the loans to go to college because they can-cause they’re told they should, have no real career plans — and are still stuck with a humungous debt?

      No genius required to see the real losers are those whose taxes will go to repay the defaulted loans.

      • Years ago, many people have told me they held part time jobs to pay for their college education. There are very few full time jobs today that can pay for one year of college education, that’s because it’s risen astronomically and is a protected monopoly that abuses associate professors with low pay all while building massive, elaborate structures, tenured professors, sports teams, etc. We could have college education, quality, while increasing assoc. prof pay and reducing the tuition by 70%. Vermont could become an education mecca, wonderful education programs offered through out the state in the summer. Instead we’re all about protecting monopolies, crony capitalists, lobbyists and PAC’s, we are probably the most divisive and corrupt state in the union. Our D- in ethics is only the tip of the ice berg.

  3. Great read. Got to hand it to her. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks. Good for her. She’s probably one in 10,000. We need a lot more of her type.

    • For that type of courage, one in a million…….We do need be more like her. Perhaps she can give lessons in courage. It was amazing to find out how few people will stand up or support people with minority opinions, which happen to be true. The propaganda is so massive in our state, probably the worst of most any state as there is no counter voice…..people are wildly supportive and vigorous in their propagandist’s ideas, it’s very troubling.

  4. “Finally, both the government and private donors need to rethink the lavish financial support for higher education, and especially for elite and selective institutions, which serve only a teeny-tiny portion of our population and which in many ways, I’m afraid, have become an anti-Western and anti-American liability.”

    I’m thinking of a particular college, ranked No.1 by the likes of U.S. News, that falls entirely into this definition. It follows a very “politically correct” policy with zero room or tolerance for opposing ideals. Some of its benefactors have quite deep pockets, as exhibited by many of the construction projects and programs ongoing there. The students, as seen daily by a close associate, reflect the above almost universally to include pervasive “gender diversity”. God help us.

  5. I remember after Al Gore lost the prez election he became a “teacher” at a CA university. The students ALL gave him a failing grade. But that’s the “upper” education level. Kids now know more than the profs, so why are they in a university spending their parents money on wasteful activities. The snowflakes should hit the welfare line and not work for a living and go back and live with their parents as has become an epidemic. Many cases parents have trouble kicking them out of the nest.

    The snowflakes don’t like reality and that’s what this country has become, snowflake attitude failure. They’ll never get a job, not proficient, an employer has to educate them how to produce? A David (anti-gun) Hogg is an example

    I had an engineering business, never would I even look at hiring one of them unless they have a positive learning attitude and get along with people.

    We need more educators like Ms. Wax.

  6. Giving money to these Colleges and ‘universe-citys” is counterproductive

    Sounds just like Ayn Rand’s caution to avoid giving or supporting what has become common in “universities” –
    where their only universe is severe politial correctness.

  7. I love this lady!!!! Can we clone her? Come on snowflakes, does she really scare you so much that you can’t come out of your safe space and openly and honestly debate her with facts?
    I can’t imagine how anyone can justify giving money to these institutions today?

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