The year 2020 will be known not only for the coronavirus pandemic that swept across the globe but also for the antiracist protests that focused attention on cascades of killings of Black people by police with impunity, a racial hoax that potentially placed a Black man in mortal danger because a white dog owner did not want to follow park rules to leash her dog, and the teargassing of and violence against peaceful protestors lawfully protesting against injustice. Many of us are asking ourselves what we can do as Black law deans, women law deans, LGBTQ law deans, people of color law deans, allied law deans, and deans with varying intersectional identities to address the malady of racism and the assault on black bodies. The AALS is taking various steps, including the curation of this webpage, to respond to racism in the United States, a scourge that threatens both our democracy and the rule of law.

By creating a space for our collective voices as leaders of law schools to engage our institutions in the fight for justice and equality, we strive to focus our teaching, scholarship, service, activism, programming, and initiatives on strategies to eradicate racism.

To engage as Antiracists, we must listen and learn from each other’s experiences, lead our communities by example, audit our schools to ensure progress toward racial equality (with an understanding that race cannot be neatly segregated from socioeconomic class), influence policy, and iterate our commitment to the fight for racial equality, all to demonstrate our resolve to eradicate racism in the United States.

This antiracist work requires listening to our dean colleagues whose lived experiences with racism offer painful truths about being Black in this country and in the legal profession. This antiracist work requires learning from experts who have conducted research and produced scholarship focused on the negative impacts of racism and intersectional oppressions on Black people in America. This antiracist work requires deans to lead our law schools according to visionary statements and actions that demonstrate a commitment to delivering on an antiracist program of legal education. This antiracist work requires auditing our programs of legal education to assess our progress toward diversifying our faculties, our staff, and especially our student bodies, which in turn diversify our profession. Finally, this work requires design-thinking vigilance—a rinse and repeat if you will—to engage in an iterative process to ensure that we as leaders challenge and reshape the rule of law and institutional practices when they do not yield equity for people of color as well as remain committed to a sustained Antiracist agenda.

 

The Listening Phase

 

In the weeks after the killing of George Floyd, law school deans from around the country addressed their law school communities. Before we begin to lead as a group in working to address systemic racism, it is critical to listen to the voices of Black deans, indigenous deans, and other deans personally impacted by police violence.

 

Headshot of Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Boston University School of Law

Angela Onwuachi-Willig
Boston University School of Law
The Fire This Time: Reflections on Killings and Protests

Headshot of Kim Mutcherson, Rutgers Law School

Kim Mutcherson
Rutgers Law School
Link to statement (PDF)

Headshot of Carla D. Pratt, Washburn University School of Law

Carla D. Pratt
Washburn University School of Law
Comments About Recent Events

Headshot of Danielle Holley-Walker, Howard University School of Law

Danielle Holley-Walker
Howard University School of Law
Link to statement (PDF)

Headshot of Danielle M. Conway, Penn State Dickinson Law

Danielle M. Conway
Penn State Dickinson Law
A Message to the Penn State Dickinson Law Community

The Learning Phase

It is important that as law school leaders we draw on the extensive research that has been done by legal scholars on the issues of police brutality, systemic racism in our criminal justice system, and police reform. These resources are intended to provide a guide to assist deans and other law faculty as we begin to collaborate on meaningful interventions to address these complex issues.

Books

  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
  • John Hope Franklin and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans
  • bell hooks, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
  • Toni Morrison, The Origin of Others
  • Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People
  • Angela Y. Davis, The Meaning of Freedom
  • Derrick Bell, Space Traders
  • Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist
  • Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
  • Clay Smith, Jr., Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944

 

Articles

 

Studies

 

Websites

Music

Art

The Leading Phase

We introduce the Penn State Dickinson Law faculty resolution condemning brutality and inequity against Black people, which was unanimously passed on June 2, 2020. With the resolution, the Dickinson Law faculty:

[A]cknowledges that racism is an affliction that we must never enable but should all be active antiracists in taking responsibility to condemn and to end, that we need to identify and challenge systemic prejudice wherever it exists, that we are all accountable for doing the work necessary for policy changes that dismantle structural systems of oppression that perpetuate racial inequities in our society, that we will strive to be better listeners and supporters of those who are the victims of racism, that we will never rest until every American feels safe, free and accepted in our country, and that we will continuously abide by the goal of providing respect and equal treatment to all in upholding the rule of law.

We offer this resolution as a template to begin discussions within American law schools about how to transform our institutions into ones that reflect the power and the promise of the rule of law to do equity in service to the principle of equal protection of the law.

Law School Adopters:

Washington and Lee University School of Law
Washburn University School of Law

Faculty Resolutions:

Elon University School of Law
Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University (PDF)
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law (PDF)
University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law
George Washington University Law School
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Rutgers Law School (PDF)
Western New England University School of Law (PDF)
Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School (PDF)

 

The Audit Reporting Phase

Law deans are among the many hundreds of thousands of people and institutions asking: “what can I do and how can I act to stop the killing of Black people and dismantle institutional racism.” We educate students and the larger society about the rule of law. Law deans can lean into this work by conducting audits of their respective schools’ programs to answer the following questions:

  • What are the demographics of your student body, and is this achieving representation?
  • What are the demographics of your faculty, and is this achieving representation?
  • Who has status in your institutions and who is included in important institutional discussions?
  • Has your institution conducted a climate survey?
  • What Anti-racist curriculum and programming have you developed and implemented?
  • Are your faculty colleagues prepared to teach Anti-racist pedagogy?
  • Are mental health resources available for students, staff and faculty who experience racism?
  • Are employers interviewing your students aware of your school’s anti-racism expectations?
  • Are your faculty protected against racial bias of students, alumni, and others?
  • Do your promotion and tenure standards account for bias in student and other evaluations of faculty?
  • Do your appointments processes account for bias in hiring criteria (e.g. citation counts)?
  • Are Black students in your school disproportionately paying more for their education and thereby subsidizing discounted tuition for non-Black students? Ask the same question for other students of color, and measure to what extent subsidization is occurring and commit to mitigation.
  • Are the ways of defining merit/eligibility for Law Review and Moot Court equitable to students of color?
  • Do you recommend students to the bar who have engaged in conduct demonstrating racial animus during law school?
  • Do you have an endowed scholarship fund for students who want to do racial justice work? If not, will you create such a fund and name it for a black life that has been ended by police power in your state or city?

The Iterative Phase: Confirming that our Actions are Consistent with Statements of Solidarity

The iterative phase requires our continuous engagement to operationalize our stated values. Iteration is a function of design thinking, which asks us to be transparent about for whom we are designing problem-solving systems. As well, it asks whether we are innovating new solutions that are continuously undergoing testing and retesting so that these solutions meet the needs of the person, group, community, and society. Iteration requires long-term commitment and sustained effort to accomplish the desired outcome—Justice for All. Thus, while we archive the Law Deans’ statements to their respective communities in reaction to the killing of George Floyd, we urge you to engage iteratively to embed Antiracist Action into your programs of legal education.

Law School Solidarity and Antiracism Statements:

Law school statements will be added to the page on a regular basis. Please contact AALS Media to submit your school’s statement or provide any edits or corrections.


 

In conclusion, this is a webpage that will transform with every additional resource, statement of solidarity, and active engagement with Antiracist principles.

The curators,

Deans Danielle M. Conway, Danielle Holley-Walker, Kimberly Mutcherson, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, and Carla D. Pratt