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A Message to Students

Dear Students:

I learned over this past Friday of a planned student walkout and protest scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 3 p.m., to stand in solidarity with Black and LGBTQ+ communities and to protest against the use of slurs in the classroom. There may be additional planned student actions.

I understand that one protest is also designed to secure support for eight demands that are discussed in this document. The organizers of the protest currently prefer to remain anonymous, so we are unable to extend an invitation to discuss concerns directly. The demands include some items that are already in place, some that are in the process of implementation, and others that cannot be achieved under Emory’s policies. Below, is a summary of student demands and the law school’s response.

As you assess your personal participation in any actions, please keep in mind Emory’s Open Expression Policy, including community responsibilities for meetings, protests, and events (Community Responsibilities 8.14.5). This link is provided as a resource to you in your own decision-making process.

Below, is a summary of the student demands and the law school’s response. We will be communicating with faculty and staff as well.

1. University Open Expression Policy

Students: Emory University must reform its Open Expression Policy and Discriminatory and Equal Harassment Policy and remove any professors who use slurs in class from their Open Expression Committee.

Response: The Respect for Open Expression, the Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment policies, and the membership of the University Senate’s Committee for Open Expression are determined at the university level, and the law school is bound by university policies. In spring 2021, Emory Law’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee established a subcommittee to study the University’s Open Expression Policy (OEP). The subcommittee includes Professor Paul Koster, four students, and Professor Derrick Howard. This summer, the subcommittee researched and prepared a memo to present to the University to consider changes to the OEP, many of which are consistent with those requested by the students. The full DEI Committee is currently considering future uses for the subcommittee’s work. 

2. Emory Law’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

Students: Emory University provide additional funding for Emory Law’s Office of DEI.

Response: Professor Derrick Howard is the law school’s Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, he chairs the DEI Committee composed of faculty, staff, and students. The law school has already allocated funds to the DEI Committee for programs and initiatives for this academic year. In addition, the Dean has indicated that additional funds will be made available if the DEI Committee’s budgetary needs exceed the current budget. In fact, she has already approved funding to co-sponsor, with the Goizueta Business School, an event with Heather McGhee on November 10 to present on her book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” (Registration information to come.)

The DEI Committee is very active and has Emory Law’s full support. During the last academic year, the DEI Committee organized several programs to  promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community. For example, the committee organized a student-led forum and completed various initiatives in response to the forum to improve student, faculty, and staff relations. The Committee offered a monthly podcast club focusing on various issues like the American caste system and gender inequity and participated in and promoted a Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE) workshop on integrating race into the curriculum. The Committee is also pursuing an initiative for campus-wide Safe Space training. The law school’s DEI webpage lists other initiatives and resources for our students, faculty, and staff. The Committee is also open to other suggestions; email lawcdo@emory.edu.

3. Critical Race Theory

Students: Emory Law must implement critical race theory into the legal curriculum.

Response: Emory Law regularly offers a course in Critical Race Theory and other courses covering a range of race and law topics. Last year, the Emory Law faculty voted to add a mandatory program on race and the law for all 1Ls. This program will take place in February 2022. The faculty also voted last year to begin an initiative to infuse perspectives on race and the law into the standard 1L curriculum. The 1L sections this year are balanced such that each section has some professors who cover race and law topics. In addition, the law school’s Curriculum Committee is considering whether to recommend any additional requirements for upper-level students.

4. Accountability Process 

Students: Emory Law must set up an accountability process for professors who use slurs.

Response: The law school acts on student complaints by determining whether the law school or university policies are implicated and complying with those policies in working with faculty members to address any concerns. Students who have concerns about bias and other matters may also contact the University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion or the University Ombuds Office.

As noted in recent law school communications, like most universities, Emory University protects academic freedom and free expression. The university does not ban the use of particular words or the expression of controversial ideas in the classroom where there is a clear pedagogical purpose. However, there is broad, though not unanimous, recognition by our faculty that the fact that certain words can be said does not mean that they should be said, particularly given the impact on students and the law school as a whole. Last week, the Emory Law faculty approved annual mandatory DEI training for faculty, enhancing the existing DEI-related training for faculty members. Faculty members making pedagogical decisions about classroom learning will participate in programs and training to ensure their choices are informed by research into the learning needs of our diverse student body.

5. Bias Incident Reporting System

Students: Emory Law must implement a reporting mechanism for students through Emory Law’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Response: Emory Campus Life administers the bias reporting process, which promotes accountability by ensuring that reports of bias are addressed by experts from outside the law school. In a meeting held September 29, 2020, the DEI Committee agreed that the law school should follow the university’s process for bias incident reporting. The DEI webpage includes a link for bias incident reporting.

6. Hiring BIPOC Professors

Students: Emory Law must hire more BIPOC professors.

Response: Emory Law has a strong track record of recruiting outstanding and diverse faculty members. The University’s hiring procedures include required training on unconscious bias and best practices in hiring for the members of faculty appointments committees. The Appointments Committee also includes student membership, which helps to ensure participation and accountability within this important process.

7. Emory Law’s Office of DEI Weekly Office Hours

Students: Emory Law’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion must begin to hold weekly office hours.

Response: The law school’s Chief Diversity Officer, Derrick Howard, maintains regular office hours. This semester, his office hours are Monday 9-11 a.m., Tuesday and Thursday 9-11 a.m., Friday 10:30-11:30 a.m., or by appointment. A scheduling link is available here. To schedule an appointment outside regular hours, email derrick.howard@emory.edu

8. Monthly Updates

Students: Emory Law must provide monthly updates on our demands and provide full transparency on the steps being taken to implement student concerns.

Response: The Chief Diversity Officer will provide monthly updates about DEI Committee activities and other law school initiatives during the school year.

I recognize that this email is lengthy, but I felt it important to share a status on the law school’s progress regarding these student concerns. While several of these demands are already being met, the fact that students are making them shows that we have an opportunity to better share the efforts we have in place. As always, I appreciate your candid feedback on this and all matters.

Regards,

Dean Bobinski

Please remember that there are many resources on campus to support youSeveral are listed below: 

  • Office of Respect provides advocacy support, prevention, and education for students who have been impacted by bias, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. (Respect Hotline: 470-270-5360).
  • Office of Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE) provides opportunities for the Emory community to explore concepts of race and racial justice.   
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides individual, group, and couples counseling; stress management classes; and community outreach to provide support for students and assist them in negotiating emotional and interpersonal difficulties as they matriculate through Emory University (404-727-7450). 
  • Office of Ombuds is a confidential, safe space where you can discuss issues and bring concerns about misunderstandings, incivility, or possible wrongdoing. Schedule a confidential visit by texting “Ombuds” to 678-403-3991; email: ombuds@emory.edu
  • Office of Spiritual and Religious Life (OSRL) has offices in Cannon Chapel (Suite 316) and Alumni Memorial University Center (AMUC 125). Religious Life and Chapel staff members provide pastoral care and support with planning vigils and memorials (404-727- 6226); email: religiouslife@emory.edu.  
  • Student Intervention Services (SIS) assists students in times of crises, not only as an invaluable resource during emergencies, but also as a source of impartial, judgment-free counsel for students seeking guidance and assistance through life's difficult times (404-430-1120).  
  • Student Health Services (SHS) offers free psychiatric services for all enrolled Emory students. Services offered include diagnostic psychiatric evaluations, medication evaluations, long-term management of psychiatric medications, and community referrals. Guidance for after-hours emergencies (404.727.7551).
    TImelyCare provides confidential support for all Emory students. They offer 24/7 Talk Now, scheduled counseling, medical visits, and psychiatry visits (by referral from CAPS and Student Health). You can set up an account using your Emory email address by downloading the app or visiting their website.

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