University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law DEI Update


Aug 31, 2021 | Alumni

Dear SJQ Community:

One of our top goals is to create an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible (IDEA) community at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.  As part of that commitment, I am writing to update you on our progress over the 2020-2021 academic year.  Despite the profound challenges of COVID-19 and racial unrest across the country, we were able to make progress on this goal.  Below is a summary of what we accomplished this past year.

  • In November 2020, the College of Law faculty adopted anti-racism goals. These goals are available here.  It will take many years to fully implement these goals and we look forward to working with all College of Law stakeholders to realize these goals.
  • We added to the diversity of the faculty and to our curriculum with the addition of Professor Leslie Culver. Professor Culver joined the faculty in the fall of 2020.  Her work focuses on “conscious identity performance” and cultural awareness—and how they overlap in every individual and prevent access toward diversity, inclusion, and equity within the legal profession. She has presented and published widely in this area and is passionate about empowering all her students to be culturally conscious attorneys in this racial era through expansive identity performance tools.  In the Spring of 2021, Professor Culver taught a seminar focusing on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Several other classes were offered during the 2020-21 academic year that explored IDEA concepts, including:
    • Seminar: Identity, (em)Power & Professional Responsibility
    • Poverty Law
  • The faculty adjunct committee completed a review of the demographic make-up of the existing faculty adjunct corps to determine the diversity of this cohort.
  • College of Law Faculty were honored for their IDEA contributions nationally in the areas of LGBTQ+ inclusive excellence and human rights. Faculty also delivered presentations on supporting black owned businesses, indigenous disparities in COVID relief, rural health and the underserved, stereotypes and sexism, racism and human rights risks, intellectual disabilities and COVID, #MeToo and sports, the problem of ageism in crisis care, cultural awareness training, alliances between religious and Queer groups, reparations and business responsibility for slavery, elections and marginalized groups and disability rights as civil rights. I personally delivered the following presentations specifically related to IDEA principles:
    • Commentators Panel – Diversity, Pluralism, and Repair: The Way Forward as part of the 20th Annual Women and the Law Conference hosted by Thomas Jefferson School of Law (April 2, 2021).
    • Taking Our Space: Women of Color and Antiracism in Legal Academia hosted virtually by the Rutgers Law Review (March 5, 2021).
  • Faculty are also adding to this important conversation through the publication of research and essays. Faculty published papers on identity awareness, accounting for the voices of people of color to make legal academia more inclusive, racial disparity in policing delivery, tribal exclusion, legal responses to COVID in Indian country, systemic racism and water rights, sexual abuse of vulnerable victims of color, disadvantaged socioeconomic status and addiction, and disabilities and anti-discrimination law. I published the following:
  • Our Justice Lab, overseen by Professor Anna Carpenter, produced an important report for the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion on the diversity of the Utah legal profession. This report is available here.
  • We also added to staff diversity at the College of Law with several hires of talented staff from a plethora of different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities.
  • Similarly, we saw an increase in the diversity of the College of Law student body. For example, our MLS Classes of 2020 and 2021 were full of diverse students with an amazing wealth of life experiences.  Both classes were majority female, and both are at least 20% diverse.  Our MLS students tend to be older (or, I prefer “possessing more life experience”), as the average age of the Class of 2020 was 41 and the average age of the Class of 2021 was 39.  In the JD program, for the first time we had two entering classes in a row with a majority of women.  The percentage of first-generation college graduates in the entering class this year increased to 16%.   The average for the previous three years was 14%.
  • To grow the pipeline of underrepresented students to the College of Law, the Admissions and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion faculty and staff committees met jointly to develop pipeline programs. These programs will be implemented this academic year, and will focus on middle school, high school, and undergraduate students from underrepresented communities.
  • To help support students, the College of Law was grateful for funds received from six Utah law firms to establish Arc Fellowships, which will provide scholarship support for students from underrepresented groups. In the fall of 2020, the law school conducted a campaign for need-based scholarship money.  Thanks to the generous support of alumni and friends of the College, over $90,000 was raised.
  • The College of Law is in active conversations with the Navajo Nation that, if successful, will result in the development of a memorandum of understanding that will hopefully result in more citizens of the Nation attending the College of Law.
  • Related to Indian country, I, in part because of my status as a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, co-chaired the committee that developed the University’s tribal land acknowledgement statement. This statement is now regularly used by College of Law administrators, faculty, and students to start events.
  • We continued to seek feedback from all community members through the student Minority Law Caucus, the faculty and staff diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, and the College of Law Diversity Council, which includes alumni and leaders in this field throughout Utah.
  • To help educate our College of Law community on issues related to IDEA, faculty, staff, and incoming first year students all received training in August 2020 on implicit bias.
  • In addition to mandatory training, the Student Affairs office also developed several programs and initiatives to help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, which included:
    • Participating in the National LGBT Bar Association Survey,
    • Implementing bi-monthly Wellness & Belonging Talking Circles on a variety of DEI topics such as: Implicit Bias and Microaggression; Pronouns & Avoiding Ableist Language; Neurodiversity; Antiracism, Privilege & Allyship,
    • Engaging in person check-in meetings and messaging with BIPOC and AAPI students concerning hate crimes,
    • Commenced planning meetings with the Black Cultural Center for co-sponsored events for undergraduate and graduate pre-law students,
    • Advised the Student Bar Association to implement a DEI Chair and Committee within the SBA (the student government body of the law school). The Dean then held meetings with the new SBA-DEI Chair,
    • Provided accommodations, support, wellness-checks, advising and resources for BIPOC, AAPI, and neurodiverse students, as well as students with disability or who had pregnancy related conditions, and
    • Promoted University DEI events, as well as national events like the Lavender Law conference.
  • Additionally, we hosted over 40 events related to IDEA concepts over the course of the academic year. Most of these events were recorded and are available on the College of Law’s YouTube page.  Some of these events included the following:
    • We launched the Dean’s Book Review, which is a monthly discussion about a book or movie related to an underrepresented group. The purpose of this discussion series is to educate all about these various communities throughout the nation and highlight the great contributions these communities are making.  Since March 2020, we have hosted 14 of these Dean’s Book Review discussions and over 2,000 people have participated in the conversations, either live or by watching the recording on our COL YouTube page.
    • Covid-19 on the Navajo Nation,
    • Women’s Law Caucus Spring Panel 2021 – The Pink-Collar Recession,
    • Supporting Black-owned business in Utah: Legal and Business Reforms to Drive Change,
    • Combating Human Trafficking: A Multi-Sector Approach,
    • Advocating for Innocence: Overturning Wrongful Convictions,
    • Access to Justice for Veterans,
    • Landlord/Tenant Issues in the COVID-19 Pandemic,
    • ULaw Wellness & Belonging Webinar: Anti-Racism & Allyship,
    • Tracing the Equal Rights Amendment in the Courts: Impacts and Considerations for Current Gender Discrimination Law Under the 28th Amendment, and
    • SCOTUS Rules Title VII Prohibits Gay and Transgender Discrimination: Key Takeaways for Employers.
  • We also continued to work with our educational technology professionals to ensure that information is accessible at the College of Law. Toward that end, the Educational Technology Department accomplished the following:
    • Provided laptops to all students and staff who needed them to continue accessing online materials,
    • Recorded every class session of every class and made them available via the course Canvas page for access,
    • Incorporated speech to text services for people who are hearing impaired for every major streamed event,
    • Integrated room audio systems into all remote/hybrid class sessions to support high quality audio to remote participants,
    • Implemented IT support scheduling solutions to make IT and Educational Technology support equally available to everyone,
    • Worked with campus Educational Technology leaders to license Zoom video conferencing solutions for all faculty, staff, and students, and,
    • Outfitted multiple conference rooms with AV capable solutions to support students attending remote classes onsite at the college.
  • The Faust Library at the College of Law also continued its work to support IDEA efforts. For example, the Library:
  • Although not directly related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the College of Law continued in its investment in student mental health by paying the salary of an embedded counselor who works with College of Law students.

We recognize that there is still work to be done, but we are happy to have taken steps forward this past year.  We look forward to continuing this important work next academic year.  As always, we welcome the feedback from our community members about ways we can continue to improve and have a truly inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible community.  Please feel free to reach out to me at any time with your feedback and ideas.

Chi Miigwetch (many thanks),

 

Dean Elizabeth Kronk Warner