The University of Pennsylvania’s law dean condemned the call by a professor at the Ivy League institution for a nation “with more whites and fewer non-whites” but stopped short of embracing demands for disciplinary action.
The law professor, Amy Wax, told a National Conservatism conference held last week in Washington by the newly created Edmund Burke Foundation that the US should favour immigrants from Western countries over those from non-Western nations.
Many immigrants are too loud and cause too much litter, and the US “will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites”, Professor Wax told the conference, according to the news website Vox.
More than 1,500 people and groups signed a petition organised by Penn’s Latinx Law Students Association calling for changes at the university that include removing Professor Wax from any teaching role and hiring more racially diverse faculty.
“Throughout her tenure at Penn Law,” the petition says, “Professor Wax has continuously antagonized students of color and the Penn community.”
Her past public controversies have included an interview in which she said Penn’s black students perform poorly, and these led the university last year to remove her from teaching mandatory classes for freshman.
Penn’s law school dean, Theodore Ruger, said in a written statement on Monday that her comments last week were “repugnant to the core values and institutional practices of both Penn Law and the University of Pennsylvania”.
But he did not address the call for her removal from Penn, and suggested a range of possible interpretations of her comments. “At best,” he wrote, “the reported remarks espouse a bigoted theory of white cultural and ethnic supremacy; at worst, they are racist.”
The dean referred a request for an interview to a Penn spokesman, who offered no response beyond the statement. The spokesman has said that Professor Wax will be taking a planned sabbatical during the coming year.
The conference last week was a high-profile attempt to reconcile conservative politics with the growing global trend of nationalism. Participants included the Trump administration’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican of Missouri.
Professor Wax spoke to the gathering about a paper she published last year in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, in which she warned of danger from large-scale immigration.
In the paper, she defended “legitimate nationalistic concerns, both economic and cultural”, for restricting immigration, “primarily from the Third World to the Western or First World”.
Such suggestions are not racist, Professor Wax argued, because legitimate objections to immigrants are based on their cultures not their race.
“The concerns of humble and ordinary folks who harbor doubts about the prevailing wisdom – so-called ‘Trump voters’ or deplorables – are rarely if ever engaged on the merits but rather dismissed as frightening evidence of bigotry, political extremism, and the rise of a dangerous populism,” she wrote in the paper.
The petition protesting her comments demanded that Penn’s law school, in addition to the condemnation and removal from teaching duties, take more aggressive actions to diversify its faculty and create a broadly welcoming environment.
Professor Ruger said that such a process was already under way, with the law school hiring 10 academic staff since 2016 – most of them women and half of them non-white.
Print headline: Penn under fire after professor opposes ‘non-white’ immigration
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