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    09.12.18 Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton Launches Law and Policy Series
    Maryellen Fullerton

    Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton this month launched the new Dean’s Law and Policy Series, a monthly program for the Law School community that showcases faculty expertise on critical issues of the day and engages the audience in a lively Q&A.

    The September program featured Professor K. Sabeel Rahman, a widely published constitutional and administrative law scholar and expert in democratic participation and civic engagement in the United States, who spoke on structural inequality and social movements. Rahman also serves as the new president of Demos, a public policy organization focused on ensuring equality in the American democratic process and economy.  

    “There cannot be a more perfectly timed issue for us to think about as we begin the school year and as many of you start your studies of law,” Fullerton said in her introduction to the program.

    Rahman began his presentation by explaining the three inter-related dimensions of structural inequality: economic, social, and political. One example he cited was the fact that zoning and urban planning decisions have been found to have multi-generational effects. “If you’re born in a high-poverty zip code, the hit that the accident of birth impacts on your health and your income and your life chances is, in fact, visible in your children as well…that’s not something that’s on most people’s radars,” he said. “When we’re fighting each of these fights, the problem is deeply structural. It’s not just a law and policy issue. There’s a whole network behind it.”

    Rahman sees positive signs that the environment for significant change is improving. “We are in a really interesting moment right now in the social justice legal advocacy space,” he said. “When you talk to movement leaders when they see the issues like raising minimum wage they look at it as changing the background network.”

    He also addressed questions from faculty and students in the audience on a range of topics, including the role of populism, whether change should come at the federal or state level, and how one goes about not just changing laws and policies, but changing the minds of individual people.

    Elizabeth Schneider, Rose L. Hoffer Professor of Law and Director of the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program, reminded students that many of the courses they take “have a social movement story as part of their background…25 years ago, there was no LGBT law…30 years ago, no courses on women in the law. It’s part of what lawyers have brought to the law to translate experiences of social movement groups into dramatic and often amazing changes in the law.”

    Watch the video here.

    The next Dean’s Law and Policy Forum on Oct. 10 will feature Professor Julian Arato, who will present on Trade Policy & the Politics of Trade. On Nov. 5, Professor Susan Herman, president of the ACLU, will speak on the topic “Do We Live in a Democracy?”