Members of UB Law’s student affinity groups are partnering with the goal of amplifying their voices on issues of diversity and inclusion.
Led by Qui’Essence Harris ’23, who is also president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the new student-run Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council will work to complement the law school administration’s DEI efforts. In addition to BLSA, the council includes representatives from groups for LGBTQ+ students, first-generation law students, international students, and students of Asian and Latin American descent.
“Our goal is to create an organization where we can promote diversity in the law school from the perspective of the law students and make sure that all people feel like they belong,” says Harris, a third-year law student. “If there’s an issue that’s impacting all of us, we can come together and address it. We just want to make sure that students’ feel like their voices are heard and can be a part of discussions that directly impact them.”
Chair: Qui’Essence Harris ’23
Vice Chair: Giovanni Gaglianese ’23
Marketing Director: Deja Graham ’24
Secretary: Ariyana DeWitz ’24
Fundraising & Events Director: Glenae Garlock ’24
BLSA Rep: Glenae Garlock ’24
ALSA Rep: Thraptthi Perumal ’23
First Gen Rep: Chanel Powell ’23
OUTLaw Rep: Lindsey Hornung ’24
ILSA Rep: Bami Adeyanju ’23
LALSA Rep: Jodaliza Gloder ’24
Harris says that impulse to support her fellow students grew from her own struggles in her 1L year, when she dealt with family illnesses, a move from Syracuse to Buffalo and the difficulties of COVID-era Zoom learning. “It definitely was a big mental thing for me,” she says.
“I’ve known I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 8 years old, but still I doubted whether I belonged in this space. So, I wanted to make sure no law student felt like an imposter.”
The new DEI Council is planning some direct service as well, Harris says. One initiative is to bring high school students from underrepresented groups to O’Brian Hall, “to learn more about what law school is like and opportunities in the legal profession. A lot of times all it takes is to see someone who looks like you in that space for you to then know that you can do it too.”
Also, with a programming grant from the Council of Advocacy and Leadership, part of UB’s Graduate Student Association, Harris and four other law students will travel in May to the city of Arusha, in northeast Tanzania. There, she says, they’ll support the work of local NGOs in addressing gender inequalities, as well as assist local attorneys investigating human rights violations.
In addition to her work with the Council, Harris has had an active year overseeing BLSA’s many programs and initiatives, with panels on such topics as interviewing strategies, effective studying, and applying for the Buffalo Law Review. “We want to make sure students are able to get the professional and academic support they need,” Harris says, “and know this is a space you can turn to when you need support.”
Those efforts have not gone unnoticed. The national Black Law Students Association, of which UB’s chapter is a part, recently named Harris its President of the Year for the Northeast Region, an honor she accepted in February at the organization’s regional convention in Atlantic City, N.J.
As she prepares to transition leadership of the chapter to the next set of officers, Harris acknowledges that the work can be time-consuming—“it really is a time management challenge”—but says the rewards make it all worthwhile. “I’m very passionate about the things that I do, so that makes it easier,” she says. “Seeing the fruits of this labor motivates me to continue. And it all ties back to why I wanted to go to law school anyway: to disrupt the status quo to benefit others whose voices have been stifled or who’ve been kept from opportunities.”