| Dear UC Hastings Community:
I am writing in response to a March 21 set of proposals from student organizations, individual students, and others (“March 21 Letter” or “Letter”), sent following the March 1 Federalist Society student organization event on campus, and following the March 2 community-wide email from me, Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner, and Dean of Students Grace Hum recognizing students’ underlying concerns and reaffirming our commitments to creating a truly inclusive law school community while honoring our commitments to the free exchange of ideas.
The March 21 Letter begins with the point that “the overarching issues faced by Black students, students of color, and other marginalized communities on the UC Hastings campus are rooted in the prevalence of white supremacy and misogyny, and are not tied to the single Federalist Society event.” I have had the chance to talk with many members of our community since March 1 and I understand that the roots of the reaction we witnessed at the event on that day are broad and deep, as the Letter suggests. Too many students of color report not feeling welcomed, understood, or valued at UC Hastings – and they want their experiences to be acknowledged and acted upon. I also learned about the deep frustration of the Federalist Society student organization members who acted professionally and civilly at the March 1 event. I learned, too, as did my fellow administrators, about the ways we could have better supported all students before and on March 1, which is prompting us to develop policies that will ensure that is the case going forward, as discussed below.
Because the March 21 Letter speaks to the campus climate more generally, and the need for the College to undertake reforms directed at ensuring a welcoming and supportive community for all members, my response starts by sketching the broader background, including our mission as a law school.
My response is detailed because the issues raised by the March 21 Letter are weighty, important, and deserve thoughtul attention. My aim is not to definitively resolve everything in a single communication, but to orient all of us toward shared ideals and goals, so that we may pursue our ideals and address our challenges with common purpose, even if we may disagree on the exact interventions to be made, as is likely the case in any community comprising diverse, thoughtful, and passionate individuals.
Shared Values and Goals
UC Hastings’ mission statement is a starting point for any conversation about our priorities: UC Hastings “serves society as a center of higher learning committed to exceptional teaching, influential scholarship, and exemplary public service. We provide a rigorous, innovative, and inclusive legal education that prepares diverse students to excel as professionals, advance the rule of law, and further justice.” The goal of an inclusive legal education is baked into our reason for being – our mission. So is the goal of preparing students to excel as professionals, which includes developing and practicing the skills necessary to confront and engage with contrary viewpoints – even offensive ones – on their merits.
Understanding and Improving the Campus Climate – a Common Project
If the campus climate is one in which students do not feel they belong – because of their race, gender identity, political viewpoint, disability status, or any other factor – we have work to do. In recognition of that, and shortly after I became Chancellor & Dean in 2017, I appointed the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Working Group (“DEIWG”) to advise me on how to evaluate and improve the campus climate. The DEIWG made important recommendations for doing so as part of its participation in College-wide strategic planning efforts that resulted in the March 2020 operational strategic plan I approved and that the Board of Directors adopted in March 2020. One key element of the plan is Goal 4.2 – “increase inclusion of all members of the UC Hastings community.” One major initiative to achieve that goal was to conduct a climate survey to better understand the full range of community experiences. I appointed a Campus Climate Survey Working Group to work with the nation’s premier climate assessment consulting group for higher education, Rankin & Associates, to design and implement a community experience survey, which they did in March 2021. Once we received the results of that comprehensive community survey in August 2021, I appointed the Campus Climate Advisory Committee, and I charged it with developing proposals to present to me at the end of this academic year to address the concerns revealed in the survey. The Advisory Committee, which includes faculty, staff, and students, including all members of the DEIWG, started the year soliciting feedback from all community members, and has since been developing proposals based on the climate survey.
While we have been doing this community-wide and formal strategic planning, we have also been adopting initiatives in real time, moving quickly to address concerns as they become apparent. For example, following the horrific killing of George Floyd, I wrote to the community in June 2020 to explicitly recognize that UC Hastings had to be part of the racial reckoning that the country was undergoing. It is worth revisiting the commitments I made at that time and our progress toward achieving them.
This first part of my response to the Letter, therefore, is something of a “progress report” on the school’s success at carrying out elements of our strategic plan relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and the specific commitments I made in June 2020. While there remains much to do in creating a welcoming climate on our campus, the College has been extremely active addressing this issue.
In my June 2020 email, I made fifteen commitments to the UC Hastings community. They are set forth below in italics, and each is followed with a statement of the College’s success (or lack thereof), to date, at carrying out the respective commitment.
Since I announced this initiative, the College has allocated and raised approximately $50,000 in donations to support CREJ initiatives, and has allocated over $200,000 more to fund the CREJ Visiting Professor and Visiting Assistant Professor programs, described below. This funding has supported the center’s mission of advancing equity through legal education, scholarship, and collaboration. Among other things, CREJ has brought nationally renowned thinkers on issues of racial and economic inequality to our campus to explore how the law can reinforce or redress such inequality. The center has created special events on campus; appointed and paid affiliated scholars to develop modules for regular doctrinal classes to help faculty address issues of race, racism, and racial justice pervasively; and made progress on its goal of expanding our racial and economic justice faculty and curriculum. On that last front, a core initiative the College has supported is the appointment and pairing each year of an experienced and accomplished Center for Racial and Economic Justice Wiley Manuel Visiting Scholar and Professor and a Visiting Assistant Professor who is new to teaching and who is interested in pursuing a career as a racial and economic justice scholar. This year, Berkeley Law Professor Russell Robinson served as the Wiley Manuel Visiting Scholar and Professor, teaching Race, Sexuality & the Law in the fall term and working with our Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) Evelyn Rangel, who has taught, among other courses, Latinx and the Law and Citizenism: Race & Immigration. The College is now launching a new fundraising campaign associated with renaming the VAP position after Dean and Professor Emeritus Keith Wingate, the first tenured Black professor at UC Hastings, and is committed to continuing funding for the Visiting Professor and VAP lines on a go-forward basis.
2. Regular meetings between the Chancellor & Dean and student leadership – My office is partnering with BLSA leadership to ensure an ongoing dialogue as we work to achieve mutual goals for change, many of which are reflected in this list. Also, my Chief of Staff Jenny Kwon and I will be meeting regularly with ASUCH President Maddie Miller and Vice President Kameelah Sims-Traylor to ensure that we are hearing the perspectives of our students on a regular basis.
Together with my Chief of Staff, Jenny Kwon, I have extended, and continue to extend, a standing invitation to BLSA leadership and ASUCH to meet on any and all matters of concern or interest to those groups. Indeed, I am open to meeting with leaders of any student group interested in making an appointment and I have regular office hours that any student in the College can reserve to speak to me. More generally, and beyond my designated office hours, any member of the UC Hastings community can reach out to my Executive Assistant, Sonia Chahal, to make an appointment to talk with me.
3. Efforts to increase enrollment of Black students – Senior Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management June Sakamoto, Director of Admissions Bryan Zerbe, and, most especially, Associate Director of Admissions & Diversity Initiatives Mario Lopez have been committed over the past several years to increasing the racial diversity of our student community, particularly in partnership with student leaders of affinity-based student organizations. While overall diversity in our student community has increased, Black representation is far below where we want it to be. Dean Sakamoto, Director Zerbe, and Associate Director Lopez will continue to explore new strategies for increased recruitment of Black students, looking for creative ways to work within the constraints of California constitutional provision “Proposition 209.” At the same time, we are continuing to recruit aggressively for our California Scholars Program, which provides generous State-funded scholarships to Californians who attended a historically black college or university (HBCU) anywhere in the country. Also, I will continue to meet with the HBCU presidents to expand on this program where possible and am actively applying for funding to do so.
The Admissions Office continues to prioritize the recruitment and yield of diverse students, including Black students, through continued participation in the 85 to 95 prospective student events we either host or participate in nationally every year, including hosting our annual “Justice for All: Diversity and Inclusion in Law School Admissions” event, participating in the HBCU Pre-Law Summit Law Fair, participating in the National Black Pre-Law Conference, participating in the HBCU Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair, participating in the LSAC Atlanta Forum including presenting on the “Diversity in Law School” panel, in-person and virtual visits to HBCUs including Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, and Howard University, and continued active recruitment for our California Scholars Program and LEOP.
In addition, since 2020, the Admissions Office has also held in collaboration with BLSA the “UC Hastings Black Law Students Association Black Pre-Law Summit,” DEI panels for prospective and admitted students with active participation from current BLSA, La Raza, and APALSA students (among others), and in collaboration with the UC Hastings Black Alumni Council and the Advancement Office our “Spring Forward to Life after Law School: Conversation with Black Alumni Council” panel for admitted students.
The work of the Admissions Office has been aided greatly by the efforts of Director Elizabeth McGriff, Director of LEOP and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Advisor to the College. She has participated in a high volume of admissions recruitment events, including panels, admitted students days, affinity organization admissions events, travel to HBCUs, 1:1 meetings and in her admissions role for LEOP generally.
We continually strive to increase the numbers of students from historically marginalized communities and we believe that our efforts to date are helping. We are encouraged by the increasing numbers of Black applicants applying to UC Hastings, being admitted to UC Hastings, and choosing to attend UC Hastings. Since the 2017-18 admissions cycle to the 2020-21 admissions cycle, the number of applicants to UC Hastings increased from 254 applicants to 428 applicants, with the same percentage of Black applicants being admitted in 2021 as our total applicant pool. Similarly, since the 2017-18 admissions cycle to the 2020-21 admissions cycle, the number of Black students enrolling in the College generally has increased dramatically. There were a total of six Black students in 2017 and now there are over 50.
To be sure, there is still work to do to increase Black student enrollment at UC Hastings. The Admissions Office under my direction will continue to collaborate with current students, faculty, undergraduate institutions, and national organizations to increase the pipeline to legal education and practice to Black applicants.
4. Student Services support – In January 2020, UC Hastings hired Lauren Lofton, our first Associate Director for Student Life & Inclusion. Over these past months, Lauren has been engaging with students and affinity-based student organizations to understand their needs and leading efforts to ensure that every one of our students feels a sense of belonging at UC Hastings. One of Lauren’s priorities is to expand student training related to bias (more on that below).
Although Lauren Lofton left last year for another professional opportunity, the position of Associate Director for Student Life & Inclusion is a permanent part of our Student Services team. In Fall 2021, we hired Miguel Zavala for that position. Associate Director Zavala most recently worked as a staff attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza in the East Bay. He is responsible for overseeing our student organizations and developing inclusion programming and resources for the Office of Student Services.
5. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training for students, faculty, staff – Thanks to ongoing efforts of Student Services and, in particular, Associate Director Lofton, we will begin requiring diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all entering students at orientation, as well as for all continuing students in the fall. Students who fail to complete this training will not be able to enroll in spring semester courses. Academic Dean Morris Ratner is working on a parallel path to require similar training to all faculty members this fall. Anti-bias training will also be required of all staff. Further, the Law Library is adding more anti-racism and cultural-competency literature to our collection.
Since July 1, 2022, the College has implemented mandatory DEI training led by experts, including, among other programs, student training organized by Student Services and presented by USF Law Professor Rhonda Magee; a series of trainings for all employees (faculty and staff) organized by Human Resources and presented by Dr. LaMisha Hill at the UCSF Multicultural Center; and mandatory faculty trainings, including the Fall 2021 faculty retreat which was focused on strategies for creating inclusive classrooms. In addition, we have had a number of optional but widely attended trainings for faculty and other community members, including nonbinary cultural competency training organized by Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives Mario Lopez and OUTLaw and presented by Beyond Binary Legal; faculty trainings on trauma-informed teaching organized by DRP and the CARE Advocate; as well as a series of faculty teaching colloquia organized by Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner building on the momentum of this fall’s retreat and involving faculty who served as CREJ affiliated scholars to develop new teaching tools such as active listening exercises or intentional approaches to addressing race in regular doctrinal classes. Finally, there have been informal opportunities for the faculty to engage in DEI related issues, including several book discussion groups, including one in the summer of 2020 on Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist.
It is worth noting further that the College regularly hosts speakers and puts on colloquia that are on subjects associated with Black lives and issues surrounding DEI. Just in the last six weeks, we have had faculty colloquia and lectures with presenters who addressed topics related to race. In addition to the recent inaugural Justice Wiley W. Manuel lecture on “How Race Should Matter in Intimate Relationships,” with Visiting Scholar Professor Russell Robinson, we also had the Mathew O. Tobriner Memorial Lecture, “My Family’s Journey from Slave to Citizen,” delivered by the Honorable Robert L. Wilkins, and the “Discredited Data” colloquium presented by Ngozi Okidegbe from Cardozo Law. We also enjoyed the faculty colloquium with Professor Carliss Chatman of Washington and Lee University School of Law on “Teaching Slavery in Commercial Law.” All of these events are relevant to our efforts toward building an inclusive community committed to diverse voices and perspectives.
We remain committed to ongoing DEI trainings for students, staff, and faculty.
6. Reviewing and adjusting curriculum to address racism – I am collaborating with Academic Dean Morris Ratner, the Faculty Executive Committee, CREJ, and other faculty to identify ways to include issues of race and racism in our curriculum broadly and consistently, both across disciplines and in individual courses focused on specific important topics related to the law. CREJ has already started working with faculty teaching 1L subjects and I will help accelerate these efforts.
We have added content to the curriculum in two ways. First, the faculty added a number of race-focused courses to our curriculum over the past few years (in addition to existing courses such as American Indian Law; Race, Racism & American Law; Critical Race Theory; and Constitutional History: Race & Civil Rights). New courses recently added to the mix include, but are not limited to: American Legal Education: A Critical Examination; Black Lives Matter: Retracing the Black in “Black Letter Law”; Tribal Law; Citizenship & Equality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives; and other classes taught by CREJ affiliates listed above. In addition, aided substantially by CREJ and CREJ affiliated scholars, we have encouraged all faculty to address race, racism, and racial justice pervasively, even in classes that are not ostensibly about race (e.g., Civil Procedure and Torts).
The College is also keeping the project of tackling racial justice issues front-and-center in other ways. For example, faculty proposing to teach a new course must now answer a question about the degree to which they take race or racial justice into account. In addition, faculty have been prompted to document their efforts to address racial justice issues in end-of-year reporting. Many faculty were already making race a central feature of their courses, but more have joined, equipped with the tools shared in various trainings and colloquia described above.
7. Police presence and accountability of campus security – As we work to ensure the security and safety of our campus, I have heard, loud and clear, the concerns of many students, particularly Black and Latinx community members, about racial bias exhibited by security personnel. I will not tolerate the racial profiling that exists across the nation to go unchecked at UC Hastings. No student, staff, faculty member, or visitor should feel targeted on our campus because of the color of their skin. Executive Director of Operations Rhiannon Bailard is working with UCSF to assess the anti-bias and de-escalation training received by our current UCSF PD security and police officers and to determine what more is needed to root out implicit bias and prejudices in our security program to ensure that, going forward, every guard and officer who works here treats every member of our internal and external community with equal dignity and respect. If you have a specific incident to share, please reach out to Director Bailard at email@example.com. We will investigate every reported incident immediately. Also, we are exploring the possibility of creating an advisory board on police accountability comprised of students, staff, and faculty, similar to those at other campuses. I look forward to hearing from a group of faculty next week who have indicated interest in this initiative.
Since 2020, we have substituted Urban Alchemy for the sworn officers of the UCSF police force. These ambassadors have made a profound difference on the streets surrounding our campus. Our goal has been to find an alternative to a police response for every situation encountered on the sidewalks. Urban Alchemy provides a unique approach that emphasizes establishing relationships and providing community-minded safety services.
Urban Alchemy employs formerly incarcerated individuals, whom they call “practitioners.” Armed with emotional intelligence and de-escalation training, they work in teams as a calming presence in public spaces. For example, they have provided security at the Civic Center BART elevators and restrooms, Boeddeker Park in the Tenderloin, and at the city’s Safe Sleeping Village at Fulton Street, next to the Main Library. Urban Alchemy began as a pilot program for the College that, owing to its success, the College has committed to retaining on a long-term basis to provide support and security to the College and its community.
The College has also implemented a system that requires all community members to badge in at the lobby of each building to ensure a safe on-campus environment and address concerns about implicit bias.
8. Reporting mechanism for bias incidents – Under the direction of Dean of Students Grace Hum and Director of Student Services Emily Haan, Associate Director Lauren Lofton has been exploring the best mechanism for reporting incidents of apparent bias impacting students. (Please note that our Student Complaints and Grievances procedures currently provide a process for students to bring complaints if they have experienced discriminatory conduct on the basis of race or other factors at UC Hastings.) Similar mechanisms are being developed for staff and faculty. Before implementing, I will ensure that there is a clear and timely process for responding to any submissions. In the meantime, students and other community members should continue to use our general comment boxes for reporting all concerns, located here.
Students who experience exclusion have a number of options, including the formal reporting mechanisms, such as Students Complaints and Grievances, Code of Conduct and Discipline violations, and Sexual Misconduct violations. Students who experience problems in the academic program can also communicate directly with Dean Ratner via this comment box, which specifically solicits comments about classroom issues. Dean Ratner informally works with faculty to address and reflect on student feedback, which may be provided anonymously. Students impacted by sexual assault, dating/intimate partner violence, sexual harassment or stalking can also informally report issues to our full-time CARE Advocate, who provides confidential support and counseling. Finally, the College is exploring how we might expand confidential care services and create a mechanism to informally address bias issues that are problematic but do not rise to the level of disciplinary action. Specifically, the College is looking at the ombuds model used at peer UC schools.
9. Signaling support of our Black community through space designations – BLSA leadership has expressed an interest in seeing spaces on campus that reflect a commitment to Black lives. Suggestions included designating space for a cultural center (already in discussion), naming a classroom in honor of a prominent Black person, and creating a collaborative space for CREJ. A couple of these ideas requires us to find physical space, which is especially tight right now, with 198 McAllister out of commission. That said, I like these ideas and will be exploring options for all of them.
The opening of the Cotchett Law Center at 333 Golden Gate Avenue also saw the opening of the Hong Student Lounge & Cultural Center, a space specifically designated for celebrating cultural diversity, including Black lives. Student Services has been soliciting input from students and student organizations to create a space that is welcoming and meaningful for all students, but especially our students of color. Additionally, just this past month, upon the recommendation of the administration and working with Black alumni leaders, the Hastings Board of Directors voted unanimously to name the Scholarly Publications Center being built in the new 198 building in honor of Justice Wiley W. Manuel. Justice Manuel was a ‘53 graduate of UC Hastings, served as editor-in-chief of the Hastings Law Journal, graduated number two in his class, and was the first Black justice to serve on the California Supreme Court.
10. Resources for LEOP – Although not all of our Black students are LEOP students and not all LEOP students are Black, LEOP under the leadership of Director Elizabeth McGriff has a vital role to play in addressing many of the racial equity issues we are grappling with. Given decreases in state funding necessitated by the State’s current fiscal situation, we made the tough decision to cut 10% from all non-salary operational budgets. But I am exempting LEOP from these cuts. And I am eager to build on LEOP’s 50th anniversary celebration last year to engage our alumni in facilitating the tremendously valuable support they can offer to our students and the College. Going forward, I will be meeting regularly with Director McGriff, both in her capacity as LEOP Director and as our campus Equity & Inclusion Advisor.
I have regularly consulted with Director Elizabeth McGriff, whose insight has been invaluable. Since July 1, 2020, we have received strong support from alumni and external supporters/boosters for LEOP students, in funds now under Director McGriff’s authority; authorized new dedicated administrative support for LEOP; and, in partnership with Director McGriff, connected LEOP students and faculty via informal and formal mentoring. Director McGriff has also closely coordinated with Assistant Dean Amy Kimmel to create special career development support for LEOP students, including the new LEOP/Airbnb diversity collaboration. With the appointment of a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives, Mario Lopez, in fall 2021, and his launch of the new First Generation Program, LEOP first gen students have ever expanding networks of support.
11. Optimizing the alumni network – BLSA leadership expressed an interest in accessing alumni who can support them and other students of color, possibly through affinity-based alumni chapters.This is an idea that Director of Alumni Engagement & Culture Meredith Jaggard raised earlier this year with 2019-2020 ASUCH President Myell Mergaert and others. Now, she and Chief Development Officer Eric Dumbleton are working with BLSA leadership to turn the idea into reality this academic year.
Alumni Affinity groups are the cornerstones of the UC Hastings Alumni Association. They seek to drive engagement and inclusivity and to celebrate culture through various events, networking, and lectures while building a deeper sense of community involvement for alumni, current students, faculty, and law school staff.
The Black Alumni Council (BAC) is led by Regina Evans ’92 and Andrew Houston ’07 and was established in September 2020. The BAC works in partnership with BLSA to provide mentoring, support, and networking opportunities for current students. Most recently, on March 31, 2022, the BAC held a networking mixer with BLSA at the Cotchett Law Center. The 60+ Black alumni and students in attendance were treated to a visit by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown Jr. ’58, Malia Cohen of the California State Board of Equalizers, and several members of the judiciary.
12. Assessing faculty recruitment –UC Hastings should have a more diverse faculty, especially in the 1L curriculum. Because of the pandemic, we are entering a particularly challenging budget year–one in which we expect very little faculty hiring. That said, we will ensure an inclusive hiring process for any faculty positions we can fill. Academic Dean Morris Ratner has charged the Faculty Appointments Committee to conduct a meticulous analysis of our recruitment procedures to assess whether we are on point with best practices for recruiting and hiring racially diverse candidates into all practice areas.
Building on the recommendations of last year’s Faculty Appointments Committee, this year’s Committee, chaired by Professor Zach Price, led one of the most successful research faculty hiring searches in recent memory in terms of the number of excellent and diverse new hires that will join our community. So far, three truly exceptional colleagues have accepted offers with tenure to join our faculty starting July 1:
13. Reviewing staff hiring practices – HR Director Andrew Scott will be reviewing staff hiring practices and protocols in collaboration with hiring managers to ensure that included among our process are best practices for attracting the most diverse candidate pools.
There are three components to the work being done by the College’s HR, as described below:
Reviewing Hiring Data: We have reviewed and continuously monitor our employment data to evaluate our hiring diversity statistics. While we cannot base hiring decisions on race, we can take actions to increase the diversity of our candidate pools if the data indicate that they do not reflect the potential applicant pool.
Applicant Outreach: In addition to posting all jobs on common job boards (Indeed, LinkedIn, Idealist), we often post on job boards dedicated to diversity (Diversity in Higher Education, DiversityJobs.com). This helps develop a diverse applicant pool from which we then select the most qualified candidate. We also explicitly state on all postings: “UC Hastings College of the Law is an equal opportunity employer. UC Hastings strives to provide a diverse and inclusive educational environment that fosters cultural awareness, mutual understanding and respect. UC Hastings College of the Law is interested in candidates who will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education through their teaching, service, and professional work. Qualified women and members of underrepresented minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.”
Training: The implicit bias training we had last year provided managers with a foundation for how implicit bias can impact their decision-making at work. We intend to continue providing training so managers remain cognizant of DEI issues when they make hiring decisions.
14. Creating paid opportunities for students supporting our efforts – It is evident to me that we have incredible student leaders who are already engaged in diversity efforts at UC Hastings. I plan to hire student consultants to help with this effort, who will be compensated for their time. If you are interested, please look out for job posts on MyHastings.
Since July 1, 2020, Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner has hired Academic Dean Fellows who have contributed to diversity research and efforts. In addition, the DEIWG has had paid research fellows who worked on special projects. Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives Mario Lopez also now hires paid research assistants to support his efforts.
15. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – In all of these matters, I will continue to be guided by the community as a whole as well as those people specially charged with focusing on DEI issues, including the College’s Equity & Inclusion Advisor, Elizabeth McGriff, Associate Director of Student Life & Inclusion Lauren Lofton, Associate Director of Admissions & Diversity Initiatives Mario Lopez, and other members of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Working Group.
As this last point states, I have been guided by many different leaders at the College regarding how we can best address the many challenges associated with building an inclusive and welcoming academic environment. In particular, Director Elizabeth McGriff and Assistant Chancellor & Dean Jenny Kwon, and especially working with Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner, have been instrumental in ensuring that these efforts remain a priority for the administration. Moreover, Mario Lopez, who has long been an essential force in these efforts, was promoted to the new position of Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives in September 2021.
As I noted at the start, the efforts that have been instituted over the last several years are significant, but not enough. I am fully aware of the gap between our intentions and the lived experiences that the drafters of the Letter have had at UC Hastings. I look forward to receiving the report of the Campus Climate Advisory Committee at the end of this semester, which will surely include further invaluable recommendations. We will continue to identify ways that the College can ensure a welcoming and supportive environment without stifling ideas or the rough and tumble debate that is an essential part of a law school education. I am confident we can achieve that goal. Indeed, I am committed to it.
March 21 Letter
It is against the backdrop outlined above that I share my thoughts regarding the proposals in the March 21 Letter. I do so without prejudice to the ongoing work of the Campus Climate Advisory Committee I constituted, which I expect will factor the Letter’s proposals into their own deliberations and recommendations as they deem appropriate. If they do, and if they submit versions of some of these same proposals, I will consider them again in the context of the Advisory Committee’s overall report and recommendations.
The March 21 Letter set forth ten proposals. They are listed in italics below, with my responses following each of them:
1. No disciplinary actions will be taken against students who exercised their free speech rights on March 1, 2022.
After consulting with my senior leadership, including in particular Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner and Dean of Students Grace Hum, as well as with the Faculty Executive Committee and full faculty, I have decided not to pursue individual proceedings under the Code of Student Conduct and Discipline (“Code”) arising out of the silencing of an invited speaker on March 1. I have conveyed this decision orally to student leaders in private conversations and in so doing have emphasized that the decision not to pursue is based on a constellation of unique factors. It’s not clear that protesters realized until emotions were already high that Section 107 of the Code makes disruption of a student event a disciplinable action; we will articulate policies that make that much clearer going forward. Based on numerous talks with those affected, from both students involved in the protest and Federalist Society members, it also appears that the disruptive nature of the protests wasn’t planned. This point is of greatest relevance when paired with the next factor, which is that the administration didn’t have policies in place that would have created opportunities for protesters to reflect in advance of the event and channel their message in permissible ways while permitting the Federalist Society speaker to be heard.
For future reference, and notwithstanding the above mitigating circumstances, it must be said that much of the behavior exhibited at the event, especially including the aggressive, in-your-face, shouting that occurred, almost certainly rose to actionable conduct. Contrary to the explicit assertion of the first proposal, there is no free speech right to shout down a speaker at a law school event. That is because the College does and must limit speech in classrooms and at events in order to allow us to achieve our academic mission, including permitting diverse and sometimes even unpopular viewpoints to be expressed and debated. Nonetheless, on balance, wanting to turn this experience into a learning moment for us all, and having the discretion regarding whether to pursue such individual actions, I do not believe it is in the interests of the College or of the individuals involved in the event to pursue disciplinary proceedings in this one instance.
However, in the future, disruption of campus events will not be tolerated. The community is now fully on notice of the way the College intends to apply its Code. Going forward, the College will proactively support students so that they can choose among the wide variety of permissible expressive options available to them in the event they wish to protest speakers or share alternative viewpoints. Student organizations have a right to bring speakers of their choice to campus and disruptions of such speakers’ presentations constitute violations of our Conduct Code and violators will be disciplined.
2. The Hastings administration will work to transparently create an on-campus event procedure, similar to procedures done at UCLA Law, where student organizations provide substantial information regarding their event including information on the potential volatile nature of events and a dedicated staff member who helps student organizations execute thoughtful and enriching programs.
I agree with this proposal. It is a helpful suggestion. The Administration has already begun developing a policy that incorporates many of the key terms of the UCLA policy. This new policy will be announced and in place in advance of the next term.
3. UC Hastings administration will add additional student seats to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group and Campus Climate Advisory Committee and current and future students serving on DEIWG will be justly compensated for their time and work as DEIWG research assistants.
I am reviewing the structure of the DEIWG and will consider amendments to it when I appoint next year’s members.
4. UC Hastings will prioritize the hiring of tenured and tenure-track faculty members who have a specialization in Critical Race Theory, Race and the Law, and/or Identity Subordination with an emphasis on anti-Blackness, as other UC law campuses have done.
The College has a significant cohort of faculty that specialize in the areas listed and just hired two scholars with critical race theory expertise during this hiring season. I recognize the value of these areas of specialization and will continue to value them in prospective faculty members. In hiring, however, we often need to prioritize particular subject areas, such as contracts, torts, etc., which may or may not align with the import of this proposal. Moreover, our faculty is largely liberal or progressive in its orientation, as are many law schools, and we would benefit from adding faculty of all ideological viewpoints, including moderate to conservative views – which are well represented in the legal profession generally and the courts specifically, but not at UC Hastings.
5. UC Hastings will require students to complete a Critical Race Theory or race and law course as a graduation requirement, similar to the requirement recently instituted at UC Berkeley School of Law.
The faculty as a body determines graduation requirements. It also approves new courses. Dean Ratner is already working with a number of administrators to reflect on how the College will address ABA Standard 303, which just passed the ABA House of Delegates in February, and which requires education on issues such as bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism. Conversations about how to use the curriculum to also advance that Standard will take place in the coming academic year through the normal faculty committee and governance processes. I embrace and support these efforts, and, as a member of the faculty, I look forward to these important conversations.
6. UC Hastings will hire third-party, non-UC Hastings affiliated consultants who specialize in BIPOC subordination to advise on creating an accountable and transformative learning environment where all students can thrive.
The College has consulted with third party experts, some of whom are listed above and were involved in trainings, and we expect to continue to do so in the future as appropriate. Additionally, the College currently benefits from the expertise of excellent professionals who have extensive backgrounds in the area identified, including Director of LEOP and Advisor to the College on DEI Elizabeth McGriff, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives Mario Ernesto Lopez, Assistant Chancellor & Dean and Chief of Staff Jenny Kwon, Associate Director of CARE Annie Rosenthal, Associate Director of Student Life & Inclusion Miguel Zavala, and others. We also have a number of faculty members who have relevant expertise on these matters and who are generous with their advice, counsel, and time.
7. UC Hastings will expand support services similar to the LEOP program, through additional staff and funding, such that all first generation and underrepresented students are given an opportunity to access such resources and support.
The College is committed to continuing to meet the needs of our students, and we will continue to adjust support services as appropriate. UC Hastings has a College-wide program that provides academic skills instruction pervasively and systematically to all students. That program starts with an intensive introduction to the classroom for all students in orientation; includes explicit instruction in academic skills, including written legal analysis combined with formative assessment and individualized feedback in the Sack program; and also includes the OASIS Discussion Group Leader program. In the 2L and 3L years, we offer Law & Process versions of bar classes and, for 3Ls, Critical Studies for-credit bar prep classes. All students have access to OASIS and the Legal Writing Resources Program for 1-1 skills instruction, as well. The OASIS program has been dramatically expanded over the past five years on the theory that academic skills development should not be limited to any one subset of students and should instead be provided to all students.
To support this effort, in the past five years, the College has integrated all doctrinal academic skills instruction within OASIS, appointed an associate dean to run the program, and hired and trained a cohort of specialist skills faculty. Whereas, five years ago, we had one employee providing academic support, we now teach academic skills though a team of specialized faculty and pervasively, across a broad range of faculty.
Additionally, beginning this past January, Director of Diversity Initiatives Mario Ernesto Lopez kicked-off the College’s First-Gen program, which provides a myriad of workshops and support programs for first-generation students. This is meant to stack on top of LEOP and general academic skills instruction and provides an additional layer of community and support.
In collaboration with Dean Ratner, I am constantly assessing the level of support we provide – whether targeted or pervasive – and making adjustments. Just this past year, we further expanded OASIS staffing. We’ll remain nimble as we continue to assess student needs.
8. UC Hastings administration will institute regular town hall meetings, at least once per semester, to keep communication lines open and available to all students. These meetings will be facilitated by non-UC Hastings diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals.
I too want to ensure that there is a consistent line of communication between our students and College leaders. The Administration has consistently offered at least one student town hall meeting a semester – often more than one – at which students are invited to communicate openly with senior administrators, including myself. I sincerely hope to see more students at these opportunities, both so that I can hear from them and they can hear from administrators. I have discussed with Deans Ratner, Hum, and Kwon the benefits of us doing much more affirmative outreach to student organizations as well, including attending some of their early organizational meetings during the year, if organizations wouldn’t mind inviting us to meet each new generation of organizational leadership.
I view town halls as an opportunity for students to speak directly to administrators regarding the issues of the day, whether involving DEI matters or otherwise, rather than a conversation that requires facilitation by an outsider.
9. UC Hastings will require faculty to undergo intensive diversity, equity, and inclusion training and education by outside professional before advising student organizations.
I described above some of the training faculty have already received. Student organizations should select their faculty advisors carefully, based on their sense that the faculty members’ values and judgment align with the student leaders’ sense of their needs in any particular year. I encourage student organizations to consider seeking advice from multiple faculty members and administrators including the Associate Director of Student Life and Inclusion, when they face what appear to them to be particularly sticky problems.
10. UC Hastings administration will take substantial action on the demands included above, and notify all students of the administration’s progress in a manner that is transparent and publicly accessible, such as the all-student email listserv, on or before March 31, 2022.
This email provides the requested notice.
In this final section, I want to speak plainly about the difficult moment we find ourselves in as a community, and as a society. In the months prior to the Federalist Society event, and after it, I have heard from our community, particularly including students and faculty of color, about the overarching issues faced by Black students, students of color, and other marginalized communities on the UC Hastings campus. I have come to a deeper understanding of the pain and trauma that speech can engender, especially in the context of this background. Although I am obviously not in a position to take racist statements “personally,” I think I can appreciate at an emotional level what they do to a person’s sense of self. And, I have not led a life unburdened by tragedy or challenge, so there is a well of experience for me to draw from on this reality.
I am confident that this message will not please everyone. Nothing I could write would. Perhaps it was always this way, but only seems more so today. Certainly, the nation seems as divided as it has ever been. Moreover, our sense of civility and compromise has deteriorated greatly over the last several decades, especially so since 2016. It has become acceptable to say or write in ways informed by prejudice and ignorance. At the same time, our inclination to give those who disagree with us the benefit of the doubt has all but disappeared. The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable has been largely lost.
Yet, we are a law school that trains future lawyers who will serve in many different roles—including public defenders, prosecutors, corporate defense counsel, plaintiffs’ attorneys, general counsel for for-profit and non-profit organizations, state and federal government agencies, judges, and business leaders—and represent clients across political and ideological spectrums. We should strive to, indeed we must succeed at, creating an educational environment of open and spirited discussion and debate.
This is where this message began, and now where it ends: Our mission is to “provide a rigorous, innovative, and inclusive legal education that prepares diverse students to excel as professionals, advance the rule of law, and further justice.” This mission necessarily contemplates the academic freedom to speak, and to hear, all voices. I am optimistic we can achieve that core objective in a climate in which all community members feel understood, welcome, and heard. And I am committed to continuing the hard work of ensuring that is so.
With respect and admiration for all in our community,
|David L. Faigman
Chancellor and Dean
John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California Hastings College of the Law