In our statement of June 4, we committed both ourselves and the College of Law to fight against and eliminate racism in the law school and to strive to make equal justice a reality. We stand by that commitment. We are both devoted to doing better and being better. We also intend to demonstrate through actions, not just words, that Black Lives Matter in the College of Law and in our country.
We have two overarching goals. First, to make the College of Law far more welcoming and inclusive, including eliminating racism and the vestiges of oppression. Second, to purposefully educate our students to become outstanding lawyers with the skills and commitment to achieve truly equal justice.
We have been listening carefully to students, alumni, faculty and staff. Those conversations have been frank, productive, revealing and difficult. What we have heard and learned has helped the faculty, staff and the two of us begin to develop short- and long-term action plans. In the process, we have also identified immediate actions that we plan to take.
As part of these first steps, we are immediately doing the following:
1. Implementing required diversity, inclusivity and anti-racism education and training for ourselves and every member of the senior leadership team.
2. Forming a small, committed task force of faculty and staff to develop a process, timeline, and next steps – short-term and long-term – to achieve our goals in the fight for equal justice and against racism and bigotry.
3. Hosting a prominent expert to present a workshop for faculty that addresses inequalities based on race and gender in legal academia.
5. Establishing a monthly movie/book watch/read event co-hosted by the dean and student groups. Each month, a different book and/or movie will be identified. For June, we are co-hosting with the Black Law Students Association and the Student Bar Association and asking any willing students to watch the movie Just Mercy, which is based on the book of the same name by Bryan Stevenson. The movie is now free on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon. We will plan to lead a discussion of the movie on Monday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom.
6. Publicizing clearly and widely the process for reporting discrimination and bias within the College of Law to Maria Saez Tatman, our assistant dean for student affairs and director of diversity and inclusion.
7. Reimagining the first-year Lawyering and Professionalism Class to add important elements directed to diversity, inclusion, and equal justice.
These are just first steps. They work in parallel with the other efforts by the faculty, staff, and students happening in the college, including the ongoing work of the Community and Inclusion Committee, the efforts of the Legal Clinic, and the important outreach from Dean Tatman, members of the Bettye B. Lewis Center, and so many other faculty and staff. The discussions, planning, and implementation will continue.
We are heartened and motivated by the many voices we’ve heard encouraging us and holding us accountable. We thank you for joining with us to accomplish lasting change.
Melanie D. Wilson
Dean of the College of Law
Incoming Interim Dean of the College of Law