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March 19 2018

Academic Mob Cuts Professor Amy Wax's Teaching Load

by Charlotte Hays

University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Amy Wax, who coauthored a notorious opinion piece espousing bourgeois culture (you know, not doing drugs, marrying before having kids, and not engaging in criminal activity), will no longer be allowed to teach a required freshman course.

She also was denounced in a letter signed by half the Penn Law faculty.

But that is not enough for a Black Lives Matter leader who will "make things very uncomfortable" on campus if the tenured professor isn't fired. Professor Wax has committed the cardinal offense of saying that affirmative action harms those it was supposed to benefit.

Defending Professor Wax in this morning's Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald writes about what so offended Black Lives Matter:

The latest outrage arises from a web video Ms. Wax recorded in September with Glenn Loury, an economist at Brown University. Forty or so minutes in, the discussion turned to racial preferences. Mr. Loury noted that, on average, students admitted via preferences “are less academically qualified—by definition!”

Ms. Wax brought up the “mismatch” effect: the idea that the so-called beneficiaries of preferences have difficulty competing with peers who were admitted without them. “Take Penn Law School, or some top 10 law school,” Ms. Wax said. “Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class and rarely, rarely in the top half. I can think of one or two students who’ve scored in the top half in my required first-year course.”

Ms. Wax added that she teaches a “class of 89, 95 students” each year, “so I’m going on that because a lot of this data is of course a closely guarded secret.” That is an understatement. Schools pay fanatical attention to the racial makeup of their student bodies, then work just as fanatically to conceal the resulting gaps in qualifications and subsequent academic achievement.

Ms. Wax suggested that preference beneficiaries would do better in colleges where their academic preparation equaled that of their peers. “If they were better matched, it might be a better environment for them,” she said. “We’re not saying they shouldn’t go to college. We’re not saying that. I mean, some of them shouldn’t.” The statement that some college students would be better off in vocational training or work is true for all races, particularly for the millions who drop out before getting a degree.

. . .

Though couched as a subjective perception, Ms. Wax’s casual observations about the mismatch effect at Penn were too sweeping—there have undoubtedly been some black students in the top quarter of the class—and she might want to correct that overstatement. But the mismatch effect is absolutely real, at Penn and elsewhere. In the early 1990s, the Law School Admissions Council tracked 27,000 students at nearly 90% of all accredited law schools.

Of the 2,000 students attending the most “elite” law schools, 52% of blacks were in the bottom tenth of their class, compared with 6% of whites. Only 8% of blacks were in the top half of their class. Bar failure rates were also skewed; the LSAC data showed that 19% of blacks graduating from these elite schools failed the bar, compared with 3.5% of whites.

I don't believe an Ivy League education is the sine qua non of success, so I am willing to entertain Professor's Wax's suggestion that some students, who might struggle at top colleges, could do better elsewhere, graduate with a better record, and receive the kind of instruction and attention that enables a larger percentage to pass the bar and go onto successful careers.

Still, it is fine to disagree with Professor Wax.

What is not fine is to try to shut down a conscientious professor for saying something that is politically incorrect.

We really need to have a conversation in this country about bourgeois values, for example. Too many kids are growing up in struggling, single-parent households. For their sakes, we need to have some painful conversations. Their lives matter.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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