The brutal death of George Floyd, along with countless other incidents of racial injustice, has affected the Drake Law community profoundly. As members of the legal profession, we have an enhanced responsibility and opportunity to work towards ensuring racial justice and equality. The students, faculty, staff, and administration of the Law School are committed to combating racism and working for equality for the Black community and other underrepresented groups through education, outreach and action.
“We stand in solidarity with our students and all people of color,” said Drake Law Dean Jerry Anderson. “We see you, we hear you, and we support you. We stand with all of those working to make positive change in our society. I am proud of the work the Law school has done but know there is much more to do, as individuals and as part of the Drake Law Community. Together we can continue this mission to make justice for all a reality for all.”
In the coming weeks and months, Drake Law School will feature the people and programs that are bringing attention to issues of racial justice and inequality. The following is an overview of some of our efforts:
- #TakeAWalk is an event organized by the Drake Black Law Student Association and the Drake Law OUTLaws (LGBTQ law student association) to further dialogue on racial justice. The walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 beginning at 10 a.m. at the Iowa State Capitol and ending with a program and candlelight vigil at the National Bar Association monument located at the corner of Grand and 2nd Avenues in Hansen Triangle Park.
- The Drake Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild is providing training for students who wish to serve as Legal Observers. Legal Observers attend protests, not to participate, but to observe and document police activity so that there is a third-party account of what happened should anyone be arrested and/or have their constitutional rights violated.
- The Institute for Justice Reform and Innovation (IJRI) was established in 2018 and serves as a center for research and training on topics including implicit bias, sentencing reform, and improving trial procedures. The Institute’s director, Judge Mark Bennett, is a former civil rights attorney and long-time federal judge known for his innovations to improve equity. In response to the George Floyd murder and other recent incidents, IJRI is working with the Drake Student Bar Association to provide free implicit bias training to local police departments, which may not have the budgets to hire consultants on this issue.
- Professor Karen Wallace at the Drake Law Library created a LibGuide addressing Racial Justice in the U.S. It includes information and resources on race, police and legal reform, anti-racism work, tools for parents, and more.
- Professor Sally Frank and Professor Robert Rigg presented Know Your Rights: Protests and Police Interactions, a free webinar that was open to the public. You will find a recording of the webinar in the Racial Justice in the U.S. LibGuide under the “Social Protest” tab.
- The faculty and student attorneys in the Drake Legal Clinic provide legal services and advocate for clients who are so often powerless and marginalized by the justice system. We plan to bring a Wrongful Convictions Clinic to Drake in the near future.
- The Cady Law Opportunity Fellow Program was created to help increase diversity in the Des Moines legal community, so that those in power better reflect our society. The program provides internships, mentorship, and leadership training to students from underrepresented backgrounds.
- Several Drake Law alumni have identified diversity as the focus of their philanthropy, establishing scholarship funds to create a more vibrant and socially reflective student body. Scholarship aid attracts highly qualified students from around the country, and helps to ease the burden of student debt upon graduation, making a broader array of career opportunities, including public service, a reality.
- Dean Anderson is leading a group of academics in requesting U.S. News and World Report to give schools credit for enrolling higher numbers of high-financial need students. Studies consistently show that the current rankings formula, which gives controlling weight to LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs, results in financial aid policies that disproportionately place the cost of legal education on low-income and minority students. Dean Anderson has led the nation’s deans in a call to make the incentives more equitable.
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