Substantively Respond to BLSA's Suggestions for a Less Hostile Campus Climate
Substantively Respond to BLSA's Suggestions for a Less Hostile Campus Climate
Students of color are grossly underrepresented in American law schools, especially public legal institutions of higher education. The effects of this underrepresentation include a hostile campus climate where students of color are burdened with racial antagonisms. These institutions claim to value diversity for the benefits it provides to the classroom setting and the legal profession writ large, yet lack the institutional infrastructure to adequately address racial issues, create programs to counteract academic preparation gaps, and recruit and retain students of color.
As a response to UCLA School of Law’s lack of institutional commitment to student of color presence and safety, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at UCLA developed viable solutuions, created a video, and had an action to raise awareness and prompt immediate responses to student needs.
By signing this petition you are standing in solidarity with BLSA at UCLA, students of color at UCLA School of Law, and other students across the nation who fight day in and day out for a more welcoming and inclusive educational environment.
UCLA School of Law can and should do better! Signing this petition will require a serious response from administration and facilitate a better future for students of color at predominately white institutions.
General Administrative Suggestions:
(1) Creating a Dean of Diversity position, operating an Office of Diversity and Inclusion
We advocate for a dedicated office and administrator to foster and ensure a safe and inclusive environment. This office would offer support and guidance to minority students as they meet increasing challenges while completing their legal education and entering the legal profession. This administrator would be responsible for things such as responding to bias incidents against both students and faculty, developing and implementing diversity trainings, implementing LEAD committee recommendations, and providing counseling and mediation services.
(2) Centralizing grievance processes and increasing the transparency of law school responses to hate
We advocate for a transparent grievance process for law school specific bias or hate incidents that would allow students to see and understand what happens as a result of their grievance. The current grievance process is not central to the law school. We need a process that is housed in the law school that accounts for the particularities of the law school environment. The law school is an enclave of its own on campus and we need to hold law school administration accountable to its students. Additionally, students feel uncomfortable reporting toxic incidents to current administration at the law school. When students have reached out about incidents of hate administration has been dismissive, indicating a lack of commitment to directly addressing hate in the law school environment.
(3) Creating a program mirroring that of LEOP at UC Hastings
UCLA School of Law lacks a strong academic support program that provides underrepresented students with academic resources and tools. We have UCLA Law Fellows, an award-winning program focusing on outreach, yet we lack the administrative follow-through for underrepresented students via an established program that supports students during law school. Law school is a highly competitive and stressful environment. Providing programs that help to counteract this atmosphere that privileges prior legal knowledge obtained through advantaged backgrounds is necessary to empower and retain students from marginalized communities.
The academic support program we currently have includes a subpar summer program (consisting of two days or less) and an academic support system that students can apply to only after their first semester. This is therefore a reactive program instead of a proactive program, where academic preparation at the outset is not privileged. Additionally, it is only open to approximately 25 students, less than 10% of the 1L class population. The faculty who run the current program at UCLA School of Law are amazing educators committed to students, however, their scope of influence is limited due to the lack of institutional commitment to academic services and resources. One of the faculty members responsible for academic support is not permanently employed. For the stability of a substantial academic preparation program, making sure both faculty members are tenured is vital.
UC Hasting’s Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) was established in 1969 to make legal education accessible to underrepresented students. Following the structure of LEOP, UCLA School of Law will allow students to apply into the program during the general law school admission application. The program will consist of weekly study group sessions, Saturday practice exams, academic workshops, programs for 2L and 3L students, and a supplemental bar review course.
(4) Preventing Professor Sander from teaching 1L students
Professor Sander’s classroom can be an unwelcoming environment for students of color given that his research subjects are students of color in public law school environments. Given his controversial views on Affirmative Action and minority law student performance, students in his classes have historically felt unsupported and alienated. Because first year law students have no choice in the professors they are assigned, they should not be subjected to a classroom environment that challenges their scholastic potential.
Excluding students of color from his 1L class is not the answer, and only exacerbates the problem, which is a biased and incomplete legal education by the exclusion of diverse voices.
(5) Developing scholarships for Black students
The economic divide between socio-economic classes often has racial implications and these divides often make higher education and law school itself unattainable for some populations. Scholarships specifically allocated to Black students and underrepresented minorities will increase the matriculation of these students and prove the administration's commitment to diversity within the student body.
(6) Requiring diversity training in the 1L Lawyering Skills curriculum
Lawyering skills, the law school’s legal research and writing program, helps to train students on how to become a thorough practicing attorney. Currently, the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy (PILP) has it’s own Lawyering Skills section featuring public interest related themes. This is an example of how the Lawyering Skills curriculum can be tailored to address various concepts. Creating Lawyering Skills curricula for all students with a diversity specific introduction to legal ethics will ensure that all UCLA law students are better prepared to work with diverse populations in and outside of the classroom.
(7) Establishing mandatory faculty diversity training
Many faculty members at UCLA School of Law have exhibited cultural insensitivity that fosters a hostile in-class environment. Currently, faculty members are not required to undergo diversity training. Providing a comprehensive training on how to engage students without ostracizing and tokenizing students of color will facilitate a more welcoming class environment as well as making office hours with professors more accessible. Thus, the establishing of faculty diversity training is necessary for the academic well-being of students of color who are made hypervisible in a classroom setting as representatives of their race and/or made invisible when topics of race are dodged due to faculty members’ inability to engage the topic.
(8) Creating an inter-faith prayer/meditation space
The variety of religions represented in the student body require accommodations to be made. An interfaith prayer/meditation room would allow students a safe space in order to express their spiritual selves in an accessible location. The interfaith prayer room should be clean, easily accessible, and have some sort of storage shelves for shoes in order to better accommodate students of all religions. An interfaith prayer/meditation space would improve the comfort of all students in particular students who experience extreme discomfort and hostility from fellow students when practicing their religion.
(1) Collecting data concerning the yield of Black students admitted to the law school
The admissions office should, if not already, inquire as to reasons for which Black admitted students do not enter UCLA School of Law. This information can highlight whether students are not attending because of a lack of diversity, lack of programming, lack of financial aid, etc. Looking into the reasons why Black students who attend Diversity Weekend and other Black students who are admitted post-Diversity weekend do not matriculate will shed light on how we can make Diversity Weekend and all of our other recruitment efforts more effective in increasing UCLA School of Law’s yield of students of color.
(2) Strengthening the voice of student representatives on and the transparency of the Admissions committee
Student representatives are crucial to the admissions process. The opportunity to review and recommend applicants allows student agency in the process of deciding the diversity of ideas and experiences of the incoming student class. Currently, student representatives review 25 admissions applications each week and make recommendations without any follow-up. Students deserve to have their voices heard, not only in principle but also in practice. Not engaging student representatives who dedicate their time to be on this committee does a disservice to the student perspective. We are requesting that the admissions office incorporate meetings during the semester to notify student representatives of the status of their recommendations.