Well this was quite the depressing read about a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania… (gift link). This article is about a complaint being filed against the professor by the law school dean.
I had a lot of reactions to it. Much of me worries about the experience of non-majority students in her classroom (African-American, Asian-American, gay and lesbian) since it seems like she has created a hostile environment for those students. She also has made statements about women being less intellectual than men and having different cognitive abilities.
Obviously, as a parent of black children, I am always concerned about their experiences in predominantly white classrooms, but I hope that by the time they are adults in graduate school, they will have the tools that they need to deal with the sort of hostility that Wax espouses.
Still in some ways, I think the article’s focus on the experience of the students of color and glbt students misses the mark. How is bigotry transmitted from one generation to the next? I would argue from adults in authority positions (parents, teachers, professors). It is not just her impact on non-majority students that matters. She is also responsible for shaping the cultural and legal views of the white and straight students in her classroom. Even if all she is doing is confirming some biases among a handful of her students, those students are being taught that their classmates are lesser and they are potentially carrying her views when they go out to practice law. It seems likely that her behavior impacts how those students collaborate with their classmates and later their colleagues.