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A Statement from Dean Mark D. West: Our Community

June 2, 2020

Today our community is burdened by the weight of emotions—exhaustion, pain, suffering, and fear—emotions that were already awakened because of the pandemic. In the midst of our struggles and despite our physical separation, we must find ways to support each other and to pull together as one. 

The Law School has a long-standing policy against making statements regarding events that happen outside the Quad. That's especially true when students aren't on campus in the summer, and even more so when the President of the University has issued a statement. Broad statements can seem superficial and irrelevant to your concerns, and if frequent, the efficacy of the messages decreases over time. So in this case, in accordance with our policy, I had no plan to issue a statement. And that's what I did for a week.

But these are extraordinary times, made even more so by a lack of clear national leadership and our inability as a nation to come together over values that should be widely shared. Our circumstances have again illuminated the stark disparities that have always existed in our country. The senseless killing of yet another black person, George Floyd, re-exposed disparity in policing and criminal justice. The ravages of the COVID-19 virus have demonstrated clear disparity in health care, living conditions, and work circumstances. Disparities persist along so many other dimensions: in education, in income, in opportunity. It is the particular responsibility of all in our community to confront these disparities and their causes.

In the coming weeks, I will charge a reconstituted Educational Environment Committee to address disparities as they appear in our Quad, and, to the extent possible, outside it. I also recommit to what I believe is the single most significant thing we can do to work on these issues: to invest in each other and in our community. This includes redoubling our clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in diversifying our faculty and administration. Last week I announced to the faculty that we finalized the hiring of Ambassador (ret.) Susan D. Page. Yesterday was the first day on the job for Assistant Dean of Student Services Kim D'Haene '03, a former member of LSSS, WLSA, and BLSA with more than a decade of experience in student services. I'm excited about the newest members of our community and what they will contribute, especially to student life. But we all know there is so much further to go, and we must remain committed to doing the work required to make our law school a better place. 

We are living in an incredibly difficult world right now. We must recognize that recent events affect all of us in deep and personal ways, and that they have a particular impact on our black community members, with whom we stand with empathy and in solidarity. I have faith that together our community can make our worlds—both inside and outside the Quad—better. 

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