Amy Laura Wax
January 19, 1953
Troy, New York, U.S.
|Title||Robert Mundheim Professor of Law|
|Institutions||University of Pennsylvania Law School|
Amy Laura Wax (born January 19, 1953) is an American lawyer, neurologist, and academic. She is the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her work addresses issues in social welfare law and policy, as well as the relationship of the family, the workplace, and labor markets.
Wax was born and raised with her two sisters in a Jewish household in Troy, New York, where she attended public schools. Her parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Her father worked in the garment industry, and her mother was a teacher and an administrator in the government in Albany, New York.
Wax attended and graduated from Yale University (B.S. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, summa cum laude, 1975). She then attended Oxford University (Marshall Scholar in Philosophy, Physiology, and Psychology, Somerville College, 1976).
She next attended both Harvard Medical School (M.D. 1981) and Harvard Law School (first year of law school, 1981). Wax practiced medicine from 1982 to 1987, doing a residency in neurology at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, and working as a consulting neurologist at a clinic in the Bronx and for a medical group in Brooklyn. She completed her legal education at Columbia Law School (J.D. 1987; Editor of the Columbia Law Review), working part-time to put herself through law school.
Wax then clerked for Judge Abner J. Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1987 to 1988. She was admitted to the New York State bar in 1988.
Wax first worked in the Office of the Solicitor General of the United States of the United States Department of Justice from 1988 to 1994. During her tenure in the Office, she argued 15 cases before the United States Supreme Court. She taught at University of Virginia Law School from 1994 to 2000.
Wax is the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, having joined the law school's faculty in 2001. She received both the A. Leo Levin Award for Excellence in an Introductory Course, and the Harvey Levin Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2015, she received a Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, making her one of three Penn Law professors to have received the award in 20 years.
Her academic focus is on social welfare law and policy, and the relationship of the family, the workplace, and labor markets. Wax authored Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century (2009).
Wax has made controversial comments that have attracted national attention. In an August 2017 piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer titled "Paying the price for breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture", she wrote with Larry Alexander, the Warren Distinguished Professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, that the decline of "bourgeois values" (such as hard work, self-discipline, marriage, and respect for authority) since the 1950s had contributed to social ills as male labor force participation rates are down to Great Depression-era levels, opioid abuse is epidemic, half of all children are born to single mothers, and many college students lack basic skills, asserting that "all cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy." She told The Daily Pennsylvanian that "everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans" because of their "superior" mores. In the same interview Wax strongly emphasized that she did not believe in the superiority of one race over another, but was describing the situation in various countries and cultures.
In a September 2017 podcast interview with Professor Glenn Loury, Wax said: "Take Penn Law School, or some top 10 law school... Here's a very inconvenient fact ... 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 ... I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half in my required first year course," and said that Penn Law has a racial diversity mandate for its law review. University of Pennsylvania Law School Dean Theodore Ruger responded, "Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law, and the Law Review does not have a diversity mandate. Rather, its editors are selected based on a competitive process."
In July 2019, at the Edmund Burke Foundation's inaugural National Conservatism conference, Wax said, "Perhaps the most important reason that the cultural case for immigration remains underexplored has to do with that bête noire, race. Let us be candid: Europe and the First World, to which the United States belongs, remains mostly white for now. And the Third World, although more mixed, contains a lot more non-white people. Embracing cultural distance, cultural distance nationalism, means in effect taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites." She went on to explain that her ideas were about culture, and not about race, but the racial compositions of the societies in question led to most academics avoiding the topic entirely.
A petition in August 2017 seeking to fire Wax gathered about 4,000 signatures. That same month, 33 of her fellow Penn Law faculty members signed an open letter condemning statements Wax made in her Philadelphia Inquirer piece and Daily Pennsylvanian interview. The Penn Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild condemned her comments. Graduate Employees Together – University of Pennsylvania, a group of unionizing graduate students, said: "We are outraged that a representative of our community upholds, and published, these hateful and regressive views." Asa Khalif, a leader of Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania, demanded that Wax be fired. Khalif said he had notified the university that if Wax were not fired within a week he would begin disrupting university classes and other activities with a series of protests.
In a March 2018 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled "The University of Denial; Aggressive suppression of the truth is a central feature of American higher education", Wax wrote:
The mindset that values openness understands that the truth can be inconvenient and uncomfortable.... Hoarding and hiding information relevant to such differences... violates basic principles of fair play... Universities, like other institutions, scheme relentlessly to keep such facts from view.
Author and political analyst Mona Charen said that the op-ed on bourgeois values "contained not a particle of racism" and that "if the Left cannot distinguish reasoned academic arguments from vile racist insinuations, it will strengthen the very extremists it fears." Political commentator Heather Mac Donald wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which she criticized the "hysterical response" to Wax's piece. University of Pennsylvania Law School Overseer Paul Levy resigned to protest what he termed Wax's "shameful treatment". Levy wrote in his letter of resignation: "Preventing Wax from teaching first-year students doesn't right academic or social wrongs. Rather, you are suppressing what is crucial to the liberal educational project: open, robust and critical debate over differing views of important social issues."
The New Criterion wrote: "Dean Ruger may wish to consult a study published in the Stanford Law Review in 2004 which showed that in the most elite law schools ... only 8 percent of first-year black students were in the top half of their class." Robert VerBruggen, deputy managing editor of the National Review, cited papers he said supported Wax's claims and wrote, "If Penn Law is different, or if things have changed in recent years, let's see some numbers."
Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches education and history at Penn, wrote: "I think a lot of what Amy Wax says is wrong. But ... I also think it's my duty to defend her right to say it, and to plead for a more honest and fair debate about it... we should want everyone to hear what she says, so that they can come to their own educated conclusions."
- "C.V., Amy Laura Wax" (PDF). University of Pennsylvania Law School.
- "Our History: Former Faculty: Wax, Amy L. (1994-2001); Tenured faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law through its history". law.virginia.edu. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia School of Law.
- Roll, Nick (August 25, 2017). "Outrage Over Op-Ed". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
- "Q&A with Amy Wax; University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Amy Wax talked about the limits of free expression on U.S. college campuses (video)". C-SPAN. June 5, 2018.
- "Penn Law Faculty: Amy Wax, expert on Civil Procedure, Social Welfare Law and Policy, Law and Economics, Family Law". University of Pennsylvania Law School.
- Amy Wax. Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. Martindale-Hubbell. 2019 – via Google Books.
- "Prof. Amy Wax; Robert Mundheim Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School". The Federalist Society.
- Amy Wax, Robert Mundheim Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School website.
- "Amy L. Wax". National Review.
- "Amy Wax recipient of Penn’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching", University of Pennsylvania Law School, April 20, 2015.
- DeGroot, Christopher (October 2017). "Standing up for Good Sense: A Defense of Amy Wax". New English Review. Nashville, Tennessee: World Encounter Institute.
- Ngo, Madeleine (September 30, 2018). "Penn Law prof. Amy Wax on Brett Kavanaugh allegations". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Daily Pennsylvanian Inc.
- Wax, Amy; Alexander, Larry (August 9, 2017). "Paying the price for breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Media Network.
- Spinelli, Dan (August 10, 2017). "'Not all cultures are created equal' says Penn Law professor in op-ed". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc.
- Bolar, Kelsey (November 21, 2018). "Professor Says Banning These Words Would Fix Free Speech on Campus". The Daily Signal. Washington DC: Heritage Foundation.
- "The downside to social uplift," Glenn Loury & Amy Wax, The Glenn Show (video).
- Pink, Aiden (March 31, 2018). "Is This Penn Law Professor A Truth-Teller Or A Bigot?". The Forward. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
- French, David (July 22, 2019). "The Problem with Amy Wax's Immigration Argument". National Review. New York City: National Review.
- The Federalist (July 26, 2019). "Here's What Amy Wax Really Said About Immigration". FDRLST Media.
- Feliciano Reyes, Juliana (August 9, 2017). "The internet wants Penn Law prof Amy Wax fired (again)—this time for her comments on the Kavanaugh hearing". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Media Network.
- Guest Column by 33 Penn Law faculty members | "Open letter to the University of Pennsylvania community," The Daily Pennsylvanian, August 30, 2017.
- "Penn NLG Statement on Professor Amy Wax," Guild Notes.
- "GET-UP Statement about Wax Op-Ed," GET-UP, August 11, 2017.
- "Fahrenheit 451 updated," The New Criterion, April 2018.
- Mitchell, John N. (March 17, 2018). "Black Lives Matter leader: Penn has to fire 'racist' professor". The Philadelphia Tribune.
- "Penn professor removed from class for saying black students underperform". Associated Press. March 14, 2018.
- Schladebeck, Jessica (March 15, 2018). "Penn Law professor loses teaching duties for saying black students 'rarely' earn top marks". New York Daily News. New York City: Tribune Media Services.
- Wax, Amy L. (March 22, 2018). "The University of Denial; Aggressive suppression of the truth is a central feature of American higher education". The Wall Street Journal. New York City: Dow Jones & Company.
- Charen, Mona (September 8, 2017). "Amy Wax - UPenn Law Professor Gets Heat for 'Bourgeois Values" Op-Ed". National Review. New York City: National Review, Inc.
- Mac Donald, Heather (September 18, 2017). "Higher Ed's Latest Taboo Is 'Bourgeois Norms'; An op-ed praising 1950s values provokes another campus meltdown—from the deans on down". The Wall Street Journal. New York City: Dow Jones & Company.
- Levy, Paul S. (June 10, 2018). "University Boardrooms Need Reform; As in corporate America in the 1980s, self-serving managers are putting institutions at risk". The Wall Street Journal. New York City: Dow Jones & Company.
- Fortinsky, Sarah (April 9, 2018). "Penn Trustee Emeritus resigns over University 'treatment of Amy Wax'". The Daily Pennsylvanian.
- VerBruggen, Robert (March 21, 2018). "If Amy Wax Is Wrong, Let's See the Data". National Review. New York City: National Review Inc.
- Zimmerman, Jonathan (September 14, 2017). "Academics may not agree with what Amy Wax says but should defend her right to say it". Inside Higher Ed.
- "Articles by Amy L. Wax," Penn Law: Legal Scholarship Repository.