October 03, 2018
University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy L. Wax is once again in the crosshairs of an effort to get her fired from the Ivy League school.
The tenured professor recently appeared in a video interview on Brown University professor Glenn Loury's YouTube series, a place where she's found trouble in the past.
The hour-long segment, entitled "Affirmative Action, Kavanaugh and #MeToo," includes critical remarks from Wax about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's decision to come forward with allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at party when they were both in high school in the early 1980s. She's one of three women to publicly raise sexual assault allegations against the conservative judge, whose confirmation has been delayed amid an FBI probe of Ford's claims.
Toward the end of Wax's interview with Loury, she argues Ford came forward for invalid reasons over what amounts to — if true — "a momentary act of recklessness" on the part of Kavanaugh (the part about Kavanaugh and Ford is concentrated in the last 10 minutes of the interview).
"I think there's no way to know whether he did it. I think it's a stale allegation," Wax said. "I think it violates principles of basic fair play for her to be bringing this up. I think she should have held her tongue. If I were her, I would have. I think basic dignity and fairness dictates that, you know, it's too late, Ms. Ford. Even if there would have been consequences to it for b****ing about it at the time."
The remarks came in the context of a larger conversation with Loury about the broader merits of the #MeToo movement. Wax repeatedly questions the language of trauma surrounding sexual assault and wonders whether women are exaggerating the impact of unwanted advances from men.
"They make out like [male sexual initiative] is some kind of horrible, life-changing trauma, which I think is just a complete exaggeration."
In response to the video, women's advocacy group Care2 launched a petition urging Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger to fire Wax.
"If only her sympathies lied with Ford and other victims of sexual assault rather than those who commit these disgusting acts of violence," the petition states. "In the age of #MeToo, there is no room for someone who believes that victims should keep their mouths shut and get over it."
Wax provoked outrage last year in an op-ed she co-wrote contrasting the "bourgeois" virtues of "White Europeans" with other ethnic groups and cultural attitudes. The piece was widely seen as tone deaf at best, racist and classist at worst.
In a previous appearance on Loury's YouTube show, Wax argued against the effectiveness of affirmative action policies, citing the "inconvenient fact" that she couldn't recall seeing a black student ever finish in the top quarter of her class.
A petition launched in response to those comments successfully led Ruger to relieve Wax of teaching first-year students at Penn Law.
Wax, who has yet to respond publicly to the most recent backlash, once wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary that cultural sensitivity compromises academic freedom.
"The mindset that values openness understands that the truth can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, doesn’t always respect our wishes, and sometimes hurts," Wax wrote. "Good feelings and reality don’t always mix. But there is a price to be paid for putting the quest for psychological comfort over openness on matters central to how our society is organized."
The petition to get Wax fired had garnered more than 4,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.