Editorial: the debate over Amy Wax’s visit

Controversy swirled this week around a pending visit to the University from Amy Wax, a professor at Penn Law school. At the time of this writing, Wax had not delivered her lecture yet, which was scheduled for April 26. Yet before she even set foot on campus, conflict did not escape the controversial professor, as several faculty members voiced concerns about her recent visit. The main concern was that Wax’s perspective would create or contribute to a hostile environment on campus, due to her beliefs that supporting a “bourgeois culture” is beneficial to society’s growth and, additionally, that it is rare for African-American students at Penn Law school to graduate in the top percentages of their classes.

However, one of the main issues with this talk is not her anticipated presence on campus, but rather the sponsorship of her talk by several groups and departments on campus. Originally, several academic departments in addition to student organizations were set to sponsor the event. Though one department withdrew their sponsorship, we find it problematic for any educational department that claims to educate students on a basis of equality for all identities to sponsor her talk. Sponsorship is a separate level of ideological solidarity than the mere belief that free speech is a valuable liberty to which all Americans have the right to ascribe. Sponsorship implies endorsement. Even if a departments claims not to share or support Wax’s beliefs (which some have), they cannot escape the implication. A student of color in one of the departments that co-sponsored the event, for example, may now fear that his or her professors do not believe he or she can succeed as a top member of the class. How is bringing someone who could possibly instill this fear into students here worthy of paid endorsement?

We agree that there is a disparity of political beliefs on campus: much of the University’s faculty and student body are left-leaning, which creates an environment that primarily fosters liberal political values. We understand that the Bucknell Conservatives Club, in inviting Wax to speak, is attempting to offer a variant viewpoint on issues of social justice, and recognize their right to do so. However, we find that in inviting past speakers who espouse divisive and highly controversial views, such as Milo Yiannopoulous and Christina Hoff-Sommers, and now Amy Wax, they seem to have dulled their original intention. The speakers the Conservatives Club tends to invite are individuals who represent the most extreme and alienating faction of the conservative philosophy. It does not matter whether these individuals actually represent extreme views or not, the perception is still there. We see their point, we respect their efforts to prove their point, but we believe they could go about it in a much more productive and effective manner. 

At the end of the day, the point of college is to expose ourselves to a diversity of perspectives, including ones with which we disagree. We cannot stop the University from bringing someone like Amy Wax to campus, but we can attend her talk and ask questions that at best, may expose some of the issues with her rhetoric and at worst, allow us to grow as scholars and individuals.

(Visited 817 times, 1 visits today)