FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 21, 2022
For more information, contact:
PA: Jae Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org
D.C.: Rachel Koelzer, email@example.com
Woori Center & NAKASEC Respond to University of Pennsylvania Law Professor’s December Remarks & Echo Student Demands
Lansdale, PA – In December 2021, University of Pennsylvania law professor, Amy Wax, made a series of racist, anti-Asian comments in an interview. As the Dean of Penn Law School, Ted Ruger, noted in his January 18 statement, “Professor Amy Wax has repeatedly made derogatory public statements about the characteristics, attitudes, and abilities of a majority of those who study, teach, and work here.”
Woori Center is an Asian American grassroots organization in Lansdale, PA. An affiliate of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), Woori Center organizes Korean and Asian Americans toward racial, social, and economic justice. Together, Woori Center and NAKASEC released the following statement:
As a progressive Asian American network representing Asian Americans and immigrants, we reject Wax’s comments as factually and morally wrong, and condemn them as dangerous and inciteful.
Since at least 2017, Amy Wax, a white woman, has been on record with repeated patterns of bigotry, and particularly of nativism and white supremacy. Penn Law’s Dean, Ted Ruger, has previously issued at least one statement, writing that Wax’s remarks are “repugnant to the core values and institutional practices of both Penn Law and the University of Pennsylvania.” Despite previous petitions and open letters from students, alumni, and faculty, Wax currently holds her tenured position at the University, causing long-lasting damage to immigrants and students of color, particularly Black and Asian American students. It is clear that, to date, both Amy Wax and Penn Law School intentionally overlook the harm and violence caused by her continued employment.
Violence against Asian Americans and immigrants in the United States is not new, rooted in decades of imperialism and colonialism. Notably, a rise in violence against Asians, specifically East Asian/Americans, has been attributed to vitriolic rhetoric from people in power that emboldens and encourages fear and hatred. Furthermore, the largest increases in violent attacks have happened against Black and Asian communities. We reject Wax’s attempts to divide our communities and reaffirm our solidarity with our Black siblings.
Immigrant and Woori Center Community Organizer, Jae Lee: “Despite Penn’s repeated statements on its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism, every time it is embroiled in racial controversy, the institution’s actions show its tendency to choose complicity over accountability. As a resident of West Philadelphia, I am far too aware of the university’s inaction and indifference toward the community members it affects daily with its militarized police force and segregatory gentrification. As an employee of Penn, I witnessed first-hand how faculty members like Robert Schuyler and Janet Monge, who held great influence as curators and researchers at the Penn Museum as well, avoided lasting consequences for their racism and “gross insensitivity to human dignity” and instead were allowed to retire comfortably or remain on campus grounds. The administration has time and time again distanced itself from, if not protected, culpable parties, furthering its influence of harm on Philadelphians of color.”
We implore the University of Pennsylvania to commit to deconstructing white supremacy. In doing so, it’s imperative that individuals such as Wax are held accountable and responsible to the communities they serve. The current investigations are an important step toward justice, but true justice is determined by those impacted. As such, we support and echo the demands raised in a January 3 letter sent by Penn Law students, outlined below:
- Begin an investigation into Wax’s continued employment at the University, under §§ II.E.16.2.A and III.B: the School must begin the preliminary procedures to determine whether Wax’s behavior in her teaching, her white supremacist remarks, and her academic research, complies with the University’s Behavioral Standards. The University must do so in a manner that is transparent and accountable to all its stakeholders, including–first and foremost–its current students. This process should be initiated by January 31, 2022. During the investigation, the School must suspend Wax from her teaching responsibilities and she must not be able to socialize with students.
- Provide further transparency into (1) the University’s Behavioral Standards regarding faculty conduct; (2) the mechanisms by which students and the University can take action against professors violating these Behavioral Standards in the future, no later than January 20, 2022.
- The School–and more broadly the University–must have a broader discussion about tenure and whether faculty members whose actions are harmful can and ought to be held accountable for their harms. The School should create a committee, including student representation, to assess how to reform tenure to account for instances of this kind of behavioral conduct and to ensure that tenure is consistent with principles of social equity, no later than January 31, 2022.
- The School should reaffirm its commitment to diversity and racial justice by forming a committee with representatives from relevant affinity groups, no later than January 31, 2022. The committee should consider expanding the Sadie Alexander scholarship, and separately consider how it can improve access to the school for first-generation immigrants through increased financial aid and partnerships with groups supporting advocacy for Asian Americans.
The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)’s mission is to organize Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. The NAKASEC Network is HANA Center (Illinois), Hamkae Center (fka NAKASEC VA) (Virginia), Woori Center (Pennsylvania), MinKwon Center for Community Action (New York) and Woori Juntos (Texas).