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Former Penn trustee says its ‘culture of fear’ is starting to resemble Liberty University’s

He sees ‘oppression the likes of which I did not think possible’

Can you think of a worse insult to an Ivy League school than comparing it to a repressive evangelical university whose president is closely aligned with President Trump?

Former University of Pennsylvania trustee Paul Levy, a longtime benefactor who resigned in protest of its treatment of a conservative law professor, warns that Penn is “closer … than you may think” to the “culture of fear” at Liberty University.

Writing for the Philadelphia-area “free thinker” publication Broad and Liberty, Levy demands that Penn “immediately offer a sincere apology” to Prof. Amy Wax, lift sanctions against her and restore her required first-year classes so freshmen can have “the benefit of her superb teaching and scholarship.”

Penn Law revoked Wax’s first-year classes after she said in a video interview that she didn’t recall seeing “a black student graduate in the top quarter” of the law school class and “rarely, rarely in the top half.”

Dean Ted Ruger called her claim “false” but then made a more vague claim: black students have graduated “in the top of the class.” Wax earlier provoked protests by praising “bourgeois values” in an op-ed. The student government recently demanded her firing.

The law school has refused to provide the allegedly correct figures about black student performance since punishing Wax, even though it’s not bound by any confidentiality law to withhold anonymized statistics on student performance by demographic.

Levy, who has donated $10 million to Penn over the years, rattled off Wax’s resume, including her medical degree from Harvard, editorship of the Columbia Law Review and 15 arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He contrasted the school with Princeton University and its demonstrated commitment to intellectual diversity:

The university preserved its principles, neither bowing to the Black Justice League to erase the memory of Woodrow Wilson from the campus, nor hiding the ugly history of Wilson’s disdain for African Americans. Incoming students read Keith Whittington’s Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech. Princeton walks the walk.

In contrast, Penn’s Ruger did his best impression of “populist authoritarian regimes” by accusing Wax of violating the school’s “core values” for expressing her views on immigration policy, Levy writes: “When did Penn acquire an official position on immigration?” (Wax’s comments have been widely distorted.)

Penn is in violation of its own guidelines on free expression, he continues: “I look back upon a once beloved campus and see oppression the likes of which I did not think possible.”

Levy scoffs at Penn President Amy Gutmann’s fallback on its once-stellar speech code rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which only evaluates a college’s written policies:

Penn is hiding behind a pathetic Maginot Line. FIRE is pointedly clear about that, stating, “our speech code ratings do not take into account incidents of censorship or punishment levied against a student or faculty, or other actions taken by a university administration.” Penn cannot defend its actions.

Penn actually dropped a tier in FIRE’s system last month, to a “yellow light” school, because of its speech-chilling sexual harassment policies.

Levy asked why Penn hasn’t joined its peers including Princeton and Columbia in adopting the University of Chicago’s principles of freedom of expression:

We can be Middlebury College, disgraced by its shout down of Charles Murray and the injury inflicted on Professor Allison Stanger for agreeing to hold a discussion with him, and its recent encore of disinviting philosopher Ryszard Legutko. Or perhaps Liberty University, whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., demands the party line on politics, school finance and governance.

It doesn’t matter whether repression comes from the Left or Right. It has the same corrosive effect on minds and hearts. Will Penn one day earn the kind of press that Falwell got from the Washington Post: “Inside Liberty University’s ‘culture of fear’”? As Professor Wax experienced, we are closer to that than you may think.

Read the essay.

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