It’s really startling how frequently the most conservative professor on campus is also the most accomplished, almost as stunning as the attempts of administrators and scholarly malcontents to silence them. “There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with plenty of lip service being paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas,” Professor Amy Wax said in a talk at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, D. C. in December 2017. “What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much.”
“It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them.” Wax is the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she has received the Harvey Levin Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.
After he op-ed appeared, “A response published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, our school newspaper, and signed by five of my Penn Law School colleagues, charged us with the sin of praising the 1950s—a decade when racial discrimination was openly practiced and opportunities for women were limited. I do not agree with the contention that because a past era is marked by benighted attitudes and practices—attitudes and practices we had acknowledged in our op-ed!—it has nothing to teach us. But at least this response attempted to make an argument.”
“Not so an open letter published in the Daily Pennsylvanian and signed by 33 of my colleagues. This letter quoted random passages from the op-ed and from a subsequent interview I gave to the school newspaper, condemned both, and categorically rejected all of my views. It then invited students, in effect, to monitor me and to report any ‘stereotyping and bias’ they might experience or perceive.”