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Princeton debate club disinvited conservative Prof. Amy Wax from event dedicated to free speech

‘more obsessed with whether I can be regarded as a racist than with actually hearing what I have to say …’ 

Last semester, one of the most prestigious debate societies in the nation abruptly disinvited conservative Professor Amy Wax from taking part in a discussion dedicated to campus free speech — an event that had been scheduled five months in advance, a new report details.

The exhaustive, roughly 8,500-word article in the Princeton Tory, a right-of-center student publication, reports that two student leaders of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society (Whig-Clio) at Princeton University canceled Wax’s invitation to speak about 12 hours before the event was set to take place last September.

The Jan. 3 article spells out how the debate society was founded in 1765 by the likes of James Madison and Aaron Burr but details how today it has become led by some students who hold anti-conservative biases, citing the Wax decision as well as a subsequent abortion debate than initially was canceled as well — then rescheduled after objections. It took place in October.

As for the Wax debacle, the controversial University of Pennsylvania law professor was set to discuss campus free speech concerns alongside Keith Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton and author of “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech.” Incoming freshmen had been tasked with reading it over the summer.

Wax has spent more than a year under fire from students and colleagues for her comments on race and culture, starting with an op-ed that praised bourgeois values and argued “all cultures are not created equal.” A new round of demands for her firing arose after Wax said she didn’t know of any black law students who graduated in the top quarter of their class as Penn. Wax has since been barred from teaching mandatory first-year law courses.

Very long story short, when the two students leading Princeton’s debate society — who were not the student who initially invited her — did an internet search on Wax shortly before the event, they got cold feet. A subsequent meeting with campus leaders allowed the students to pull the trigger and spike the event, the Tory reports.

Under the guise that they were simply postponing the event and with a promise to reschedule the event with a different structure, Whig-Clio co-presidents Lena Hu and Justin Wittekind informed Wax of the disinvitation in September.

In December, three days after the Tory interviewed the two students who canceled the event about their actions, they emailed Wax asking her when they might reschedule her for the spring.

Wax, known to speak the truth bluntly and unapologetically, told the Tory what she thought of their actions and motivations:

Wax explained that she had no way of knowing for sure but added that “one could put the interpretation…that they’re sending the email just to kind of make themselves look better and to back up their assertion that’s it’s not really a ‘cancellation’ but a ‘postponement’ and all of that. One could interpret it that way but how are we supposed to know?”

Wax continued by asking: “At the end of the day what difference does it make?”

“[Hu and Wittekind] are more obsessed with whether I can be regarded as a racist than with actually hearing what I have to say and getting a new or a different perspective on things,” explained Wax. “If that’s the game they want to play then let them play it – that’s the game that’s being played everywhere across all the universities and as far as I’m concerned it’s not an education.”

The Tory also reports that several high-ranking campus leaders have voiced disappointment that Wax was disinvited. But apparently the mainstream campus newspaper, the Princetonian, did not consider Wax’s disinvitation newsworthy. They were aware of the situation in the fall but did not report the story, the Tory reports.

Read the full report here.

MORE: Conservative prof mulls defamation suit against Penn

IMAGE: Greg Piper / The College Fix

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.