Once again, Amy Wax has, through her thoroughly anti-intellectual and racist comments denigrating Asian immigrants, underscored a fundamental tension around harmful speech at American universities. Like all racist generalizations, Wax’s recent comments inflict harm by perpetuating stereotypes and placing differential burdens on Asian students, faculty, and staff to carry the weight of this vitriol and bias. Yet Wax makes these statements as a faculty member with tenure, a status that has done, and continues to do, important work in protecting the voices of scholars on a range of controversial topics including those who are actively challenging racism, sexism, and other inequities in society. The same academic freedom principles that permit current scholars to engage in critical and overdue analysis of this nation’s historical and structural discrimination – despite zealous efforts to censor such speech by some – also apply to faculty like Wax who voice xenophobic and white supremacist views.
That Wax’s speech may be protected does not permit this Law School to ignore the real harms such speech causes. As we have previously emphasized, Wax’s views are diametrically opposed to the policies and ethos of this institution. They serve as a persistent and tangible reminder that racism, sexism, and xenophobia are not theoretical abstractions but are real and insidious beliefs in this country and in our building. This reality sharpens and deepens our commitment to support our community as we continue to work to advance equity and inclusion.