Commentary: By pressuring Penn, Philadelphia City Council threatens faculty speech rights

Adam Steinbaugh and Alex Morey
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Comments by perennially controversial University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax — who said in a recent interview that the U.S. is “better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration” — have once again drawn widespread criticism. Unfortunately, they have also drawn a troubling call from 16 of the 17 members of Philadelphia’s City Council, on city letterhead, for Penn to “begin a comprehensive and transparent review of Professor Wax’s position and role with the university.”

Penn Law’s dean, Theodore W. Ruger, issued an acidic denouncement of Wax’s comments earlier this month, calling them “thoroughly anti-intellectual and racist.” At the same time, Ruger properly defended her right nonetheless to make the comments. While City Council members have their own First Amendment rights to criticize Wax’s views in their personal capacities, it is not appropriate for government officials to call for universities and colleges to violate the expressive rights of their faculty or students.