Integrating Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, Social Justice and Law with Intention
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Integrating Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, Social Justice and Law with Intention

In academia, summer is the time for researching, writing, and travel. It is also an ideal time of year for professors to audit classroom materials and teaching techniques.

This summer is an ideal time to consider how bias, race, gender, social justice, and cultural competency issues are integrated into your readings, syllabus, classroom inclusion practices, and assignments. Not only is this what our students are demanding, it is responsive to recent changes to ABA Standards, which now require accredited law schools to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism,” allow for this requirement to be satisfied through “orientation sessions for incoming students,” “lectures on these topics,”  “courses incorporating these topics,” or “other educational experiences incorporating these topics.”

According to Lauren Porosoff, there are at least four different types of audits instructors may use depending on what you are looking to change or assess. Diversity and inclusion audits “ask what the curriculum has, while equity and justice audits ask what the curriculum does.” Auditing your teaching could be auditing your materials, your syllabus, or your teaching practices. One way to start further integrating diversity into your class could be as simple as adding readings to supplement your existing casebook. As Anthony R. Chase said in his 1995 article Race, Culture, & Contract Law: From the Cottonfield to the Courtroom: “Multi-culturalism is not simply a matter of re-shuffling the canons of knowledge to include the works of previously excluded cultures” and space needs to be allowed not just for additional readings, but for additional discussions and analysis where race, gender, identity, religion, and national origin are at the forefront.

Another summer task could be updating your syllabus and adding inclusive language. There are free tools for reviewing your syllabus to get you started. Sometimes it is even more helpful to hear from others who have worked through these issues in their own teaching practice.

As Paolo Freire wrote, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom.” Let us spend our summer striving for engaging and transformational legal education.

 

On April 26 at 3:00 PM EST, Roger Williams University Law School and CUNY Law School are co-hosting a panel discussion on auditing your syllabus and classroom materials. Registration is free for all. This will be the final event in our year-long speaker series inspired by Integrating Doctrine & Diversity: Equity and Inclusion in the Law School Classroom, which I co-edited. You can access recordings of our previous events online.

 

Nicole P. Dyszlewski is one of the editors of Integrating Doctrine and Diversity: Inclusion and Equity in the Law School Classroom. She currently serves as the Head of Reference, Instruction, and Engagement at the RWU Law Library and as an adjunct professor. She received a B.A. from Hofstra University, a J.D. from Boston University School of Law, and an M.L.I.S. from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and the Rhode Island State Bar. Her areas of interest are mass incarceration, access to justice, and systems of race and gender inequality in law. Nicole was the 2020 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Volunteer Service Award and the 2015 recipient of the AALL Emerging Leader Award.

 

Suggested citation: Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Integrating Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, Social Justice and Law with Intention, JURIST – Academic Commentary, April 22, 2022, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2022/4/Nicole-Dyszlewski-integrating-DEI-intention.


This article was prepared for publication by Gabrielle Wast, JURIST’s Deputy Executive Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at commentary@jurist.org


Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.