Ten Student Organizations Call for Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

We, the undersigned organizations, are a coalition of affinity groups at Harvard Law School representing hundreds of students, millions of dollars, and countless hours of physical, intellectual, and emotional labor. While our specific organizations vary in membership, programming, and mission, we share a unified purpose: to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity. This purpose mandates we take action to change the status quo.

We call on Dean Manning to establish a Harvard Law School Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (“Committee”) charged with designing an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (“Office”); tracking implementation and progress on the Office; and monitoring the wellbeing of students until one year after the operation of the Office.

This demand is consistent with previous research and recommendations at HLS. On July 5, 2017, Dean Manning announced he had received the final report of the Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement. The student members of the Task Force wrote specific recommendations related to numerous topics, including curriculum, diversity, and institutional community building. HLS has failed to implement a majority of the recommendations, including the development of a Critical Race Theory program and hosting public town halls to address HLS norms and culture. To address these pressing student concerns, a Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity should be established.

The importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity cannot be overstated. Academic institutions around the country have reached a general consensus on the need to institutionalize this work and empower the staff. For law schools, this work is important in the recruitment process, classroom environment, financial structure, alumni reunions, and various other areas. When HLS installed a community engagement and equity officer, this was a step in the right direction. There are many more steps to take, including establishing an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.

This statement includes a framework for the composition of the Committee, action steps to establish the Committee, and suggested topics for the Committee to consider. There are many more details to be discussed with other students, staff, and faculty; we invite the conversation. If HLS is serious about valuing its students, the administration must work with its students. Anything short of a transparent and collaborative process for establishing an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity will be unresponsive to student concerns.

HLS needs to actively recognize the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity and implement structural reform. This reform should include meaningful student input. Students can no longer be ignored in this process. We demand change.

The undersigned members of the Affinity Group Coalition:
Black Law Students Association
First Class Law Students Association
La Alianza
Women’s Law Association, Executive Board
Lambda
Middle Eastern Law Students Association
South Asian Law Students Association
Native American Law Students Association
Queer and Trans People of Color
Harvard African Law Association

COMMITTEE ON DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, AND EQUITY

I. Mission of the Committee

The Harvard Law School Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (“Committee”) shall be charged with designing an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity; tracking implementation and progress on the Office; and monitoring the wellbeing of students over time.

II. Duties of the Committee

A. Design an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity

The Committee shall include in the report a recommendation for the design of an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity, and the administration shall issue a written response to the Committee’s recommendation before creating any such office, articulating reasons for any deviation. The law school shall not create an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity until the Dean has received the Committee’s recommendations and either accepted or rejected each one publicly.

B. Track and Publicize Progress

The Committee shall develop procedures to track progress in the implementation of the Office, to collect data on student wellbeing and inclusion, and to publish regular reports on the HLS website.

C. Meet with the Dean

The Committee shall hold regularly scheduled meetings to update and receive input from the Dean.

III. Committee Structure

A. Membership

The Committee shall be composed of representatives from HLS faculty, staff, and students. Committee members must be individuals who share a commitment to the HLS mission, an awareness of problems of inequality and non-inclusion, and attentiveness to their causes and possible solutions. The Committee shall be composed as follows:

1. Ten Students:

The initial student Committee members will be selected by the Affinity Group Coalition. The Affinity Group Coalition shall seek to appoint students representing a range of membership in HLS Student Organizations and diverse personal identities.

2. Ten Members of the Faculty, Staff, and Administration:

The Dean of Students; Two staff members, to be selected by the staff; One clinical faculty member, one podium faculty member, and one staff/administration member, to be selected by the Dean; Four remaining committee members, including at least one clinical faculty member and one podium faculty member, to be selected by the Affinity Group Coalition after the Dean’s selections.

B. Committee Co-Chairs

From the Committee members, three Committee Co-Chairs shall be selected by the Affinity Group Coalition, including one student, one faculty member, and one staff member. The Committee Co-Chairs shall hold the Committee accountable for making  timely progress towards achieving its responsibilities. The Committee co-chairs shall attend all community and faculty meetings.

C. Secretary

The Dean of Students shall schedule the initial meeting of the Committee. At the first meeting, the Committee shall appoint a Secretary who shall be responsible for scheduling meetings, taking notes at the meetings, and emailing notes to the Committee.

D. Voting Procedures

Committee decisions shall be made by a majority vote.

E. Working Groups

The Committee shall convene Working Groups of students, faculty, and staff (including some non-members of the Committee) to perform research and analysis on issues such as diversity, pedagogy, and culture.

IV. Suggested Considerations

  • Diversity: Issues of focus might include admissions practices, hiring practices for staff and faculty, diversity training for professors and students, orientation, diversity programming, and student/faculty mentorship programs.
  • Pedagogy: Issues of curricular focus might include mandatory and optional course offerings, grading, alternative curricula, experiential learning, expanded clinics, and modifications to first-year J-term and Legal Research and Writing courses. Issues of pedagogical focus might include the Socratic method, the case method, examinations, contextual learning, feedback, and class materials.
  • Culture: Issues of focus relating to physical space might include faculty portraits, classroom names, and the HLS crest. Issues of focus related to values might include alignment with the mission statement, career advising, hiring processes, transparency in publication of employment data, the “hidden curriculum,” and cultural norms for academic and personal success. Issues of focus related to funding might include donations, student debt, the Low Income Protection Plan, orientation, and the Early Interview Program.

Demarquin Johnson & Dalia Deak

Demarquin Johnson and Dalia Deak are 3Ls. Demarquin is also a student at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Dalia is also a graduate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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