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Our Journey Toward Inclusivity

The School of Law has long been an ally in the fight against social injustice and oppression—through faculty research and scholarship to nationally recognized, top-ranked legal clinics, centers, and institutes, and the annual Norman Amaker Social Justice Retreat.

In spring 2017, School of Law administrators engaged Nextions, LLC, to conduct a cultural assessment survey to assist the law school in its efforts to heighten organizational excellence in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The decision to administer the survey was based on feedback the administration was receiving from faculty and students regarding a perceived climate of exclusion that was contrary to the school’s mission. Nextions began implementing the cultural assessment survey in fall 2017 through 2018, issuing its final results and recommendations to the administration in fall 2018.

In April 2018, prior to final recommendations from Nextions, students challenged the faculty to look inward: specifically, to create a more inclusive atmosphere in the classroom. Fueled by the students’ passion, faculty and administration asked the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to address expressed concerns and develop deliberate plans to strengthen inclusivity within the school.

Here are some of the steps the School of Law has taken to better support our students and to make our institution more welcoming and inclusive:

2018

  • Engaged Nextions, LLC, to lead a workshop (for all faculty and administrators) on cultural competencies, explicit and implicit bias, and the art of facilitating difficult classroom discussions
  • Explored implicit bias in faculty hiring through a required faculty workshop facilitated by the assistant provost for academic diversity
  • Expanded a mandatory orientation program for all incoming students to include implicit and explicit bias and cultural competency
  • Provided all faculty and 1L students with The Color of Law, a book addressing the history of legalized racial segregation in housing in the U.S., and held law school community book discussion
  • Established the Professional Identity Formation (PIF) curriculum, a required class for all entering 1L students to engage with faculty and each other on issues of professionalism, implicit bias, racism, and cultural competency
  • Increased the number of diverse instructors to teach the new PIF class and upper-class electives
  • Increased the number of diverse senior-level administrators within the School of Law
  • Created the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity
  • Created the role of assistant dean for the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (Josie Gough served in this role from 2018 until her retirement in 2021.)

2019

  • Established signature programs and events aimed at building community and trust within the law school
  • Held the inaugural Coalition of Color Congratulatory for diverse students graduating in the Class of 2019
  • Added new courses to the upper-level curriculum specifically designed to address systemic racism and oppression (e.g., Housing Discrimination, International Environmental Law, Mass Incarceration, Sexuality and the Law, Law and Cultural Property)

2020

  • Created a new mission statement based on input from students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and staff
  • Engaged in a University-led Racial Justice Examen to evaluate, reflect, and develop an action plan to actualize our mission to become an anti-racist law school
  • Charged every law school faculty governance committee with creating actionable goals to implement our mission objectives
  • Worked with the Student Bar Association to elect student representatives to serve on faculty governance committees in an effort to provide greater transparency to the student body
  • Provided all faculty and 1L students with Biased, a book about unconscious racial bias and how to address racial disparities, and held law school community book discussions
  • Dedicated every faculty meeting for Academic Year 2020–2021 to workshops on diversity, equity, and inclusion facilitated by experts including Dr. Arin Reeves of Nextions, Professional Identity Formation (PIF) Director Carla Kupe, and Dr. Derald Wing Sue, renowned psychologist, co-founder of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), and leading multicultural scholar

2021

  • Created and appointed a new senior-level administrative role, associate dean of mission innovation, to assist with faculty development and carrying out our mission objectives; Professor Sacha M. Coupet is appointed as the inaugural dean
  • Provided a law school community-wide presentation on Responding to Concerns in Our Community: applicable policies, procedures, and where to turn for help
  • Reengaged Nextions to conduct additional student climate surveys
  • Welcomed the school’s largest, most diverse class of first-year law students, achieving admissions goal of 30 percent diversity
  • Launched Diversity and Inclusion as a Social and Professional Responsibility course for second- and third-year students
  • Dramatically increased financial assistance and scholarship support, including creation of the Faculty Diversity Scholarship Fund
  • Established the Student Well-Being Workgroup comprising students, faculty, and staff, which delivered 2021 Fall Semester Well-Being Week programming and administers the Innovative Ideas Fund to support student-centered programming in furtherance of our anti-racist mission

2022

  • Approved seven new or newly redeveloped anti-racism courses to expand curriculum (coming fall 2022 and spring 2023)
  • Added an experiential component to Diversity and Inclusion as a Social and Professional Responsibility
  • Reviewed and revised the Student Code of Conduct
  • Grew tenured faculty who focus on dismantling systemic injustice. Professors Jeannine Bell and Blanche Bong Cook will join the School of Law in 2022
  • Appointed the first permanent African American woman dean in School of Law history, Michèle Alexandre

Our 2018-2022 Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Report shows how the School of Law has taken deliberate steps to cultivate a more inclusive atmosphere at our institution and to best position our graduates to advocate for justice and equity among underserved and marginalized communities.

Our Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion fosters an exchange of ideas and shared experiences. Our goal is for all members of our law school community to feel valued and supported.