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A Message from Dean Mark West: Moving our Community Forward

June 5, 2020

I wish I had been more clear in my statement earlier this week: Our Black students matter. We support you. We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. 

Following my email to the community earlier this week, I've received much feedback from students, alumni, and faculty. Thank you to everyone who has used their voice and participated in what will be an ongoing conversation about race and our law school. Students and alumni have shared their pain, frustration, and anger stemming from a range of experiences related to issues of race and racism affecting our community, most acutely felt by those in our community who are Black. 

Racism and white supremacy undercut the most basic tenets of democracy and the ideals and promise of a democratic justice system. We are witnessing our nation struggle to confront and overcome the vestiges of slavery, racial oppression, and injustice. Citizens across this nation, and in our own Quad, are holding us all to account and demanding that we push harder to eliminate racial disparities. 

The Law School must remain vigilant in our efforts to identify and eliminate institutional racism. Although we have wrestled with it over the years, our efforts have not been sufficient. Racism is pervasive, varied, and often obscured; it presents an ongoing challenge. 

I'm grateful to the professors who have enthusiastically expressed their interest in and intention of participating in the reshaping of our community in ways that are long overdue. We are beginning the work we need to do with students and are marshaling our considerable faculty and administrative resources. We are now moving together in the right direction with conviction and affirming our commitment to take action. Here are the immediate steps that we are taking:

  1. I am convening an advisory committee (distinct from the Educational Environment Committee) of faculty, alumni, and administrators to grapple with racism and with disparities within the Law School based on race and ethnicity; student voices will be sought, and included to the extent they wish. One crucial aspect of our undertaking—one way we can honor you as we prepare you to enter the legal profession—is to take your guidance, but to lead the charge. We recognize there is inequity in that those of you raising these issues are also often the ones disproportionately affected. We commit to supporting you and shouldering this work.
  2. We are abandoning our policy of never making statements regarding events that happen outside the Quad.
  3. We are pledging that there will be no retaliation for anyone engaging in these conversations. Indeed, we are grateful for your input.
  4. We are committing to additional anti-racism training for faculty and administrators, an undertaking that will be ongoing.
  5. We are expanding the use of student organization allocated funds to include payment of honoraria in order to expand the voices within the Quad and increase the diversity of speakers.

These are just the immediate actions. There is much more that we can and will do, in the classroom, in the curriculum, and with regard to the diversity of our faculty and administration. We are committed to finding meaningful ways to address issues of race and bias. We will work together to make this place better.

We will work together to make our community better. Black Lives Matter.

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