In many ways, 2020 was a pivotal year for racial justice. Consistent with a swelling intolerance for racial inequities in our society, the School of Law has redoubled its efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion – and harnessed the passion of students, staff and faculty toward that important end.
“Everyone is feeling the emotional toll of this,” says Tolulope Odunsi, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. “But it has had a greater impact on our students of color, because of their personal experiences with racism. It’s important for all of us to deal with our emotions, but it’s also inspiring to see people not give up on doing this work and continuing to advocate for racial justice.”
As demonstrators voiced their anger nationwide, the law school responded with a range of initiatives. Most broadly, the school is working on a strategic plan that will, among other things, revamp academic programming to include courses on the legal and historical context for racial inequality and provide additional training for faculty and staff to further their understanding of these issues and promote cultural competency.
A series of new programming made for rich discussion in 2020:
This energy has also looked outward to the wider community. Members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) connected with the office of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, which has solicited input on policing reforms. Aldiama Anthony ’21, BLSA’s 2020-21 president, is working with members of her executive board on legal research to help inform decision-making on policy.
“Our goal is to research laws that could help the Black community, specifically on the use of deadly force by police, as well as collective bargaining laws,” Anthony says. “Combining the community-based approach by our activists, with utilizing our legal background as law students, can bring about the effective change that our society needs.