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Students and Faculty Join to Build Antiracist Curriculum

02/02/2021

At the first Summit on Building an Antiracist Curriculum on Jan. 29, 2021, students and faculty gathered virtually to explore how the curriculum can change to remove bias and help diversify the legal profession. The Curriculum Committee invited the entire student body to the half-day meeting to discuss their views on the effects of racism on their education at the Law School and their ideas on how the academic program can move toward integrating antiracist content and instruction.

Reforming the curriculum is one of the key efforts initiated by the faculty after the adoption of its anti-bias resolution in August 2020. In the resolution, the faculty acknowledged that, “as educators, we must learn and grow as we ask our students to learn and grow. Being antiracist must be an active, daily pursuit.”

“We are thinking about how we can actively change our society to end systemic racism,” said Maryellen Fullerton, Suzanne J. and Norman Miles Professor of Law, who chairs the Curriculum Committee. “We need to do this, both as a faculty and as students who will soon be members of the bar.”

Curriculum Committee student members Jordan Khorshad ’21, Brian Brown ’21, and Xinxin Zhou ’21 spearheaded efforts to examine possible changes in curricular emphases and course materials, enriching the curriculum in order to develop actively antiracist graduates.

“The faculty has placed a premium on actual student feedback,” said Khorshad. “This is a real opportunity to shape the direction of our school, and I am grateful for that opportunity.”

The summit began with a plenary session, moderated by Zhou, where the Curriculum Committee, along with the faculty Committee on Student Diversity and Inclusion and the Professional Development Committee, reported on efforts so far.

“We will enable the institution to be antiracist not just by creating rules, but by sharing information,” said Dean Michael T. Cahill in his opening remarks. He pointed to the faculty’s commitment to diversify itself as another positive move in changing the Law School’s culture. “That, in addition to formal changes that we make, will have an effect on our curriculum.”

The plenary session was followed by two rounds of small group discussions led by student facilitators, where students were free to openly discuss issues of racism and inequality in the classroom and Law School curriculum. The Curriculum Committee will use the feedback to incorporate student perspectives into its future actions as they implement the faculty resolution.

“This is work for all of us,” said Karen Porter, Arthur Pinto & Stephen Bohlen Associate Dean for Inclusion and Diversity. “It will take all of our efforts and engagement as an institution to think of what changes are needed.”

The Committee on Student Diversity and Inclusion and the Curriculum Committee also launched a student experience survey in February to better understand student perspectives on various issues in the classroom and their experience in the wider Law School community. The data collected will be used to inform current and future decisions supporting a diverse, inclusive, and vibrant campus community.

In addition, the Law School has joined with the 10 New York City-area law schools to form the Law School Anti-Racism Consortium, a coalition of law school faculty, administrators, staff, students, and alumni committed to building an antiracist culture and climate in law schools and actively confront the extent to which racism impacts legal education.

Learn more about Brooklyn Law School’s commitment to antiracism