Honoring Diverse Voices in Legal Education

This past election season was wrought with division and attacks on the racial, religious, cultural, and gender identities that are integral to the lives of so many Americans. These attacks on our communities and core aspects of our identities are not new. Nearly one year ago, on November 19, the portraits of African-American tenured faculty in the halls of Wasserstein were defaced with black tape. Then and now, in the face of discriminatory acts, our student body has gathered to discuss the importance of awareness, to recognize that racism and oppressive actions are not condoned by our community, and to value diversity both in the legal profession and in legal education.

To continue this conversation about diversity in the law, a group of affinity groups, including APALSA, BLSA, La Alianza, Lambda, NALSA, and WLA, with support from DOS, have come together to sponsor a “Diverse Voices in Legal Education” exhibit. The exhibit will run from Thursday, November 17 to Tuesday, November 22 in the first and second floors of Wasserstein Hall. It will feature talented scholars who give voice to marginalized communities. Our goal is to commemorate and celebrate the need for different backgrounds, scholarship, and voices that shape our discussion of legal theory and services in legal education.

The professors we are celebrating hail from all over the country and the world and study a varied range of legal concentrations. They are skilled and accomplished legal scholars who have used their law degrees to support causes ranging from immigrants’ rights to indigent criminal defense and racial justice. These trailblazers have used their voices to broaden the scope of understanding and addressing different perspectives in institutions such as our own and the legal profession at large.

The exhibit features UCLA and Columbia professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who has called for more gender-inclusive approaches to racial justice interventions. University of Hawaii professor Mari Matsuda is one of the founders of critical race theory. University of California-Irvine professor Jennifer M. Chacón has written dozens of law review articles, book chapters, expert commentaries and essays discussing immigration, criminal law, constitutional law and citizenship issues. Northwestern professor Karen Daniel is the founder of the Women’s Project at Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and women. Daniel has helped free wrongfully convicted men and women in state court, federal court, and executive clemency proceedings, and encourages law students to use their training to tell the stories of the voiceless and powerless. And our very own Mark Wu, who comes from the blue-collar immigrant family past that many of our students share, was a Rhodes Scholar and works with the World Bank and WTO, while also teaching international trade law. These are just but a few of the professors that we celebrate this week.

Despite the notable accomplishments of the featured legal scholars and our hope for continued commitment to diversity, the statistics in legal academia remain dismal. In the United States, 37% of legal professors are women and only 15% are professors of color.[1] In total, tenured and untenured women of color make up only 7% of the legal profession. At HLS, there are more than twice as many full-time male faculty members compared to full-time female faculty members.[2] The statistics highlighting the discrepancy amongst scholars representing other marginalized groups are just as bad– if not worse. For example, East Asian faculty members comprise only 2% of all tenured faculty members across the T6 law schools.[3] This underrepresentation is also apparent at HLS, where there is only one tenured East Asian faculty member out of over one hundred total tenured faculty members.

By featuring these professors, we strive to highlight the need for diverse voices in the law, not only because they represent our student body, but also because of the expertise these professors bring to their fields. These individuals have dedicated their careers to improving legal thought and legal practice. We are proud to line Harvard’s hallways with their portraits and honor their contributions to representing diverse voices in the law and engaging vulnerable voices through scholarship.

Stephanie Jimenez, Co-President of La Alianza
Kristin Turner, President of BLSA
Amanda Lee, Co-Vice President of the WLA
Amanda Chan, Co-President of APALSA 
Mariel Hooper, Co-President of Lambda 
Julian SpearChief-Morris, Co-President of NALSA

[1] See Meera E. Deo, The Ugly Truth About Legal Academia, 80 Brook. L. Rev. 943, 961 (2015) (citing Ass’n of Am. Law Schs. 2008-2009 AALS Statistical Report on Law Faculty, Gender and Age (2009) and Ass’n of Am. Law Schs. 2008-2009 AALS Statistical Report on Law Faculty, Race and Ethnicity (2009)).

[2] See The Women’s Law Association Shatter the Ceiling Committee, Gender Disparities at HLS, The Harv. L. Record (Apr. 3, 2016), http://hlrecord.org/2016/04/gender-disparities- at-hls/.

[3] Data collected and analyzed by APALSA.

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