'Better off with fewer Asians:' UPenn law professor's comments spark backlash

Amy Wax's call for fewer Asian people in the country went viral, sparking backlash across the country and on the Penn campus.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Dean of the University of Pennsylvania's law school is speaking out after one of his professors said the country is "better off with fewer Asians." The dean calls the comments "anti-intellectual and racist."

Dean Theodore Ruger's statement came after law professor Amy Wax participated in an interview in which she stoked fears about what she called the "danger of dominance of the Asian elite."

After having her viewpoint challenged by a listener, Wax followed up her argument by saying "... most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions. I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration."

Her call for fewer Asian people in the country went viral, sparking backlash across the country and on the UPenn campus.

"I don't appreciate hearing comments like that because I don't want to be part of a community that has words like that," said UPenn graduate student Amanda Paluba.

Ruger's statement goes on to say, "Like all racist generalizations, Wax's recent comments inflict harm by perpetuating stereotypes and placing differential burdens on Asian students faculty and staff."

Wax's comments cause international students like Quan Qiu, who is from China, to worry.

"I think at UPenn, racism cannot be tolerated anywhere in this campus," said Qiu, who noted that all of his professors have been fair to him.

Wax is no stranger to controversial comments. She's been accused of making racist generalizations before, including a time when she said that Black students never graduate at the top of UPenn's law school. That comment caused her to get banned from teaching core classes at the university.

Now, Wax is only allowed to teach electives. Her latest comment has drawn even more ire from the dean.

"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," said Ruger in his statement.

As inflammatory as the comments are, it seems that UPenn has no plans to fire Wax. Ruger's statement references the fact that Wax has tenure at the university. It's a status that Temple law professor Craig Green says protects professors at universities across the country for better or worse.

"She has a working contract with the University that protects her," said Green.

He explained that tenure protects professors of all viewpoints.

Green referenced examples of professors who defended the civil rights movement were protected by tenure and that professors who currently support issues like gender identity and equity programs are also protected.

"(Tenure rules) are designed for her to create that space to operate as an intellectual," he said, adding, though, that the racial comments Wax has made as an Ivy League law professor are disheartening. "I think it's very upsetting for people to hear those kinds of views especially from such an illustrious platform."

In the same wave of comments in which Wax said the country needed fewer Asian people, she tried to justify her standpoint by saying "most Asians support Democrats" and that the party "...mindlessly valorizes Blacks (the group most responsible for anti-Asian violence)."

The Action News Data Journalism Team found that's not true. Analyzing FBI statistics of reported crimes against Asian people in 2020, 52% of those crimes were committed by white perpetrators. Twenty-two percent of perpetrators were Black. Similar stats hold for the decade ranging from 2010 to 2020.

Ruger's statement went on to say: "Wax's views are diametrically opposed to the policies and ethos of this institution."

But the damage may already be done.

"It's a sad moment, in that respect, for the University of Pennsylvania," said Green.

Wax did not respond to requests for comment.
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