UPenn Accuses a Law Professor of Racist Statements. Should She Be Fired?

I have many thoughts on whether Amy Wax should be fired. My first instinct would be to say no because we need to uphold intellectual and academic freedom. But here is the thing, academic freedom needs to be considered with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech works in two ways. There is first the legal right to freedom of speech which is protected by the Bill of rights. And then there is the philosophical freedom of speech which is the belief that an individual has the right to express themselves freely. While these paths of freedom may be distinct they should be governed the same. Meaning, legally I believe an individual has the right to say what they want and philosophically I feel the same way. However, while I believe we have the right to say what we want, I also believe we are not free from the consequences of what we say.  I had a theology teacher who would always say “You have the right to hate, but you do not have the right to harm”. I can get down with that. People are haters. People say hateful things. However,  if that hate causes harm then there needs to be accountability. If there is harm and no accountability then we do not have a just society.

Freedom of speech to me works like any other freedom. With all forms of freedom, you have the right to pursue them, but if your pursuit infringes upon other individuals’ pursuit of life then you should be held accountable.  

Back to the question at hand, intellectual freedom is tricky for me because I believe it is important for innovation. Intellectual freedom provides scholars with the ability to think outside the box and develop new ideas. However, intellectual freedom with tenure can be very dangerous for students as this sort of freedom allows tenured senior scholars to say wild, ignorant, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Black, anti-Semetic, etc shit with little to no consequences. This type of freedom can and does cause harm to students and junior scholars. I have felt this harm before as a student. I won’t say at which institution I was at, but I had a professor who would say with impunity anti-Black and classist remarks which not only made me feel inferior but their comments slowly ripped away my humanity. This professor’s sentiments greatly affected my mental well being. But their comments are not exclusive nor are they rare. College campuses are not just these places that are safe in liberalism or progressivism, they are violent and harmful spaces, especially to people of color. So do I think Amy Wax should be fired? Probably. Will she be fired? No, because the academy protects its own. 

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