George Washington University's Black Law Students Association Immediate Call to Action

George Washington University's Black Law Students Association Immediate Call to Action

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We encourage all GW Law Students to sign the petition below demanding immediate institutional change at the University. We also encourage students and alumni to comment below as well. A signature is easy. However, commenting a personal experience or sharing the ways in which you personally have benefited from the institutional oppression that exists at this PWI and many others is the hard part. We encourage everyone to engage with this information beyond a signature and share.

 

Re: An Immediate Call to Action

Dear George Washington University Law School Administration,

The George Washington University Law School advocates to advance the study of law and legal practice for any individual who elects to pursue a juris doctorate degree. The Law School prioritizes its students by providing them with the rudimentary tools for success.

However, such stated description inaccurately characterizes the Black student experience. As Black law students, at a predominately white institution, our legal educational and professional experience is discriminately flawed. Therefore, in efforts to ensure equality and mindful inclusion, we, the Black Law Student Association, encourage the Law School to take swift action to meet the following demands.

Demands:

I.         In – Class Educational Learning

1.  Reform the 1L requisite criminal law class.
a. Currently, GW Law provides that this class will provide a student with:“An overview of the criminal justice system; dimensions of the problem of crime and goals of penal sanctions. An examination of what conduct should be made criminal and what sanctions should be applied. The theoretical anatomy of a criminal offense (elements of mens rea and actus reus), the general principles of criminal liability, and the various defenses. Special problems, such as conspiracy, inchoate crimes, causation, insanity, and complicity, are subjected to detailed analysis.”

However, to teach the criminal justice system without the impact and influence of race, is to ignore the criminal justice systems’ very infrastructure and means of stability. To correct such ignorance, BLSA demands that the 1L criminal law curriculum be immediately reformed, to appropriately reflect the United States’ racially charged criminal justice system. Such reform must be immediate to directly impact GW Laws’ Class of 2023. BLSA demands that such teachings do not happen in one simple class lecture must be embedded and addressed throughout the semester to cover topics including but not limited to, post – slavery incarceration, qualified immunity, and the New Jim Crow.

2.  Increase class offerings on Race and the Law.
a.     GW Law prides itself on offering its students a robust legal education. However, with over 275 elective law classes, GW offers only has (2) two-credit courses on race and the law: Law of Race and Slavery and Race, Racism, and American Law. When systemic racism is embedded into every institutionalized system, BLSA calls for an immediate change to GW Law’s elective courses. BLSA demands that the Law school immediately adds a three-credit course to be offered this academic year in Spring 2021. Further, BLSA demands that the School’s curriculum continues to evolve, so there are no less than 5-7 classes offered that focus on race and the law by 2023.

3.  Increase diversity in Con Law 3 with Justice Clarence Thomas.
a.     The George Washington University Law School allows its students the exceptional opportunity to engage and learn from the only sitting Black Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, Clarence Thomas. Due to demand, the Law School implements a lottery student enrollment system. However, a lottery system has disparate impacts on Black GW Law students because Black students make up a marginalized percentage of GW Law’s student body. The current lottery system stifles diversity and prevents Black students from engaging with the only sitting Black Justice. Therefore, BLSA demands that effective immediately a percentage of slots in the class be reserved for African American/Black students and should be reflected in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

 

II.         Clinical Learning 

1.  Add a Racial Injustice Clinic.
a.     BLSA demands that the Law School add another clinic which advocates on behalf of those who have experienced racial injustices. Currently, members outside of the Black community are finally voicing and joining in solidarity to stop the unjust killings of Black men and women. However, it is imperative that White people understand that Black people experience injustices far beyond police encounters. GW Law has a duty to its students to provide clinical instruction, in order to prevent individuals from recognizing and understanding racial inequities only in the context of criminal law. Thus, BLSA demands that GW Law offers its students clinical learning which highlights that systemic racism is embedded in all American institutions, such as the health care system, housing system, voting system, and educational system. This clinic could engage in substantive work with organizations such as the NAACP to represent, advocate, and protect those who are victims of civil rights violations. This clinic should seek student engagement using GW Law’s clinic application and interview process, while reserving a percentage of student participation for diverse applicants. BLSA requests that this clinic has a mandatory corequisite of a class which instructs on Race & the Law. BLSA demands this clinic is formed no later than 2021.

2.  Increase Diversity in GW’s yearlong clinic - Criminal Appeals and Post Convictions Service.
a.     This clinic selects roughly 8 students as a student-attorneys, to provide written and oral advocacy on behalf of clients convicted of criminal offenses. Due to our racially charged criminal justice system an overwhelming majority, if not all of the clinics’ clients, are Black. BLSA demands that a percentage of the student-attorneys selected are reserved for Black GW Law students. Ensuring that Black GW Law students serve in a clinic, where a majority if not all of its clients are Black, is fundamental to the educational value of this clinic. Without the voices of Black students, the seminar conversations and clinical learning experiences will be limited. Furthermore, Black GW Law students are committed and interested in participating in such clinics but are continuously not selected as student-attorneys. For example, in the upcoming clinical year, only 1 Black student was selected to serve as a student-attorney, while 5 Black students were placed on the waitlist. One is simply not enough. BLSA demands diversity among student-attorneys is improved immediately, so that 1-2 more Black students will serve as student-attorneys in the upcoming clinical year, 2020-2021

3.  Increase Diversity in GW’s Prisoner & Reentry Clinic.
a.     Please see the stated reasons above. For the upcoming clinical semester, 0 Black students were selected to serve as student-attorney, while 3 Black students were placed on the waitlist. BLSA demands diversity is increased effective immediately, so that 1-2 Black students will be admitted into the 2020 Semester.

 

III.         Experiential Learning

1.  Increase Black Student Membership on Academic Journals.
a.     GW Law has 9 academic law journals which allows students to develop and enhance critical writing and research skills. Currently, there are not enough Black GW Law students in such journals and BLSA demands that ALL journals require diversity statements for consideration. Discriminatory practices are evident and illustrated by GW Law’s History. The Law School was founded in 1865 but it was not until 2019 that the GW Law Review and the GW Federal Communications Law Journal had its first Black Editor-in-Chiefs. BLSA demands that diversity is increased and reflected in the upcoming student membership to the Class of 2022.

2.  Increase Black Student Membership on Skills Boards.
a.     GW Law has 4 Skills boards: Alternative Dispute Resolution Board, Mock Trial Board, Moot Court Board, and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. BLSA demands that Black student membership is increased. Unfortunately, many Black GW Law students have experienced explicit and implicit racism in efforts to join such skills boards, whether it through judges' feedback and commentary, coaching advice, or faculty remarks, Black GW Law students remain the disadvantaged marginalized group. An independent oversight board is needed, as such microaggressions against Black GW Law students have gone unchecked and unnoticed. BLSA demands that all Skills Boards increase Black student membership and undergo racial bias training.

 

IV.         Administration

1.  Hire an Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion.
a.     Several colleges and universities now either have an associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion or are in the process of hiring one. The purpose of this position is to hire a person who has demonstrated expertise and vision in promoting and advancing diversity for all faculty and learners. BLSA demands that GW Law hires an Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, who will assume responsibility no later than by the Fall 2021.

2.  Mandate Racial Bias training for all students.
a.     In tandem with the Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, BLSA demands that GW Law develops a racial diversity bias training that all students are required to take at the start of every academic year. BLSA demands such trainings be implemented immediately, and students pledge to be anti-racist.

3.  Transparency
a.     The Law School must publicly release the number of students who identify as a diversity student, student of color, and or African American/Black in order to ensure their commitment and remain accountable on having a diverse legal community. BLSA demands such numbers be published immediately and no later than the beginning of 2021.

 

V.         Faculty 

1.  Increase the number of Black full time faculty.
a.     According to GW Law’s Faculty Description, the school currently designates 75 individuals, as full-time faculty. Of the 75, only 8 of those individuals are members of the Black Community. BLSA demands the school hires more full-time black faculty members. To have only 10% of the full-time faculty to be able to racially and culturally access and connect to GW’s Black law students is cause for concern. 10% can no longer be the token number – a mere quota GW looks to fulfill. BLSA demands that by Spring 2021 two more full time faculty members are hired and are Black. Further, BLSA demands that the law school continue to diversify its full-time faculty, such that by the Fall of 2023 15% of GW Law’s full-time faculty are Black, and a percentage of those professors are expected to become tenured. BLSA demands that GW Law thoroughly understands the message it sends to GW’s Black Law Students when there are barely any faculty members that have our shared experiences.

2.  Implement mandatory racial basis faculty training.
a.     Many Black GW Law students have experienced racial microaggression from professors and faculty. Whether such words or actions were intentional, they were ignorant and unjust. Effective immediately, BLSA demands that GW Law implements a mandatory racial basis training, and faculty pledge to be anti-racist. This training should occur before the start of the upcoming academic year, 2020- 2021, and should be held annually.

 

VI.         Student Body

1.  Increase Diversity within the Law School’s admissions process.
a.     BLSA demands that the Law School reforms its admission process in order to recruit and admit more Black students and more broadly minority and students of colors. Creating a space for Black and minority students to feel comfortable starts by having more than just one or two of us in every classroom. BLSA demands that the next incoming class, class of 2024, reflects GW Law’s commitment to promoting diversity.

2.  Promote Community Building.

a.     BLSA demands that the Law School develops and holds one town hall per semester where faculty and students can gather to discuss ways GW Law can do more for its non-white students. BLSA demands that the administration is required to be in attendance. BLSA believes such conversations are integral to personal accountability and community growth. Such towns halls shall be implemented no later than Spring 2021.

 

VII.         Academic Holidays & Celebrations
 

1.  Mandate June 19th as Juneteenth on GW Law’s academic calendar.
a.     This change should be immediate and reflected on the upcoming academic 2020- 2021 calendar year. Similar to July 4th, BLSA demands that University close in observance and acknowledgement of the emancipation of last remaining enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas.


BLSA demands that the above actions not only be discussed but are implemented immediately. Too often our concerns are silenced and ignored, and as Black GW Law students we demand the same educational and professional learning experiences as our White counterparts. The time is now. BLSA demands that The George Washington University Law School substantially improves its efforts in order to ensure the University’s commitment to treat and educate all students equally. BLSA demands a follow up meeting is scheduled with administration as soon as possible, and no later than July 17th , in order to begin the process of tangible change.

 

In Solidarity,

President of the Black Law Students Association

/s/ Morgan Bodenarain
 

Vice President of the Black Law Students Association

/s/ Obasi Bryant
 

Executive Board Members of the Black Law Students Association

/s/ Katrina Jackson
/s/ Jordan Jean

/s/ Priya Patel

/s/ Evan Bursey

/s/ Chidima Osuchukwu

/s/ Nija Chappel

/s/ Derick Wallace

/s/ Rita Aidoo

/s/ Jordan Michel

/s/ Jaylla Brown

/s/ Ashley Anglade

/s/ Erin Isaac

/s/ Kendall Lawrenz

/s/ Latia Lewis

/s/ Taylor Cross

/s/ Jeanmarie Elican