An Update on Fordham Law’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts

A Message from Dean Matthew Diller
February 24, 2022
Dear Fordham Law Community,
February is Black History Month, an important moment to recognize both the hardships that Black Americans have endured and the richness of the contributions they have made—and continue to make—to the world. As the trials surrounding the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor reach important milestones this week, it’s clear that our pursuit of equality, human dignity, and justice continues. As BLSA President Ryan Washington ’23 said in a statement earlier this month, “… For the rest of the year and beyond, we are asking our Community to truly consider the impact of its words, its members, and the methods by which we teach and practice the law.”
At the start of the month, we invited the writer, historian, and journalist Professor Nikole Hannah-Jones to give the inaugural Eunice Carter Lecture—an event only made possible through the incredible efforts of Professor Catherine Powell, to whom we owe our gratitude. Listening to Hannah-Jones, who has literally changed what we mean when we talk about Black history with her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, I could think of no better way for us to start our month-long commemoration than to be in her company.
As the month draws to a close, I wanted to update you on our efforts to address structural racism here at the Law School. In June 2020, we committed to taking a number of swift actions designed to provide all students, faculty, and staff with an equitable, inclusive, and truly welcoming experience. Though there is still work to do, we have made significant progress on implementing these changes. The many steps we have taken are detailed and updated here, but today I would like to highlight some important landmarks and critical community momentum.
Named New Batts Scholars
  • Earlier this month, we named the second cohort of Deborah A. Batts Scholars. The program, initiated in 2020 to honor the first tenured Black member of the Fordham Law faculty and the first openly LGBT member of the federal judiciary, provides support for students dedicated to using their legal education to promote social justice, civil rights, and equality. This year’s recipients, Ferrell Littlejohn ’24 and Afrika Owes ’24, join the inaugural scholars Cameron Porter ’23 and Lamar Smith ’23 in honoring Judge Batts’ legacy with their work and scholarship.
Broadened the Diversity of Our Faculty
  • In fall 2021, Atinuke “Tinu” Adediran and Julie Chi-hye Suk joined our doctrinal faculty, and Aysha Ames joined our academic leadership as director of legal writing. All are not only stellar scholars and teachers, but are also well versed in areas that emphasize the intersectional nature of law.
Welcomed New Leaders to the Center on Race, Law and Justice and PIRC
  • This academic year, the Law School welcomed two new leaders at the Center on Race, Law and Justice, Executive Director Zenande Booi and Associate Director Dominique Bravo. Both have deep experience in research and advocacy around racial inequality and will help the Center expand its reach and platform.
  • In addition, Mia Jackson-Rosenthal has joined the Public Interest Resource Center as our new Director of Public Interest Student Engagement and Counseling. A former staff attorney and pro bono coordinator at the Bronx Defenders, Mia’s passion for public service and her dedication to expanding opportunities for Black law students in public interest law will be of great value to students.
Continued to Expand the Pipeline Through the REAL Scholars and IDEAL Programs
  • We have begun to see the impact on students of two of our key initiatives, the REAL Scholars and IDEAL programs. The aim of both is to expand the diversity of the legal community, but each works along different lines: the IDEAL program nurtures interest in legal careers among diverse undergraduate students in the greater New York City area, and the REAL Scholars program prepares incoming Fordham Law students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to become leaders in both the Law School community and the legal profession. In the latest issue of Fordham Lawyer, we highlight 1Ls Alexia Klein ’24 and Rian Morrissey ’24 and look at the impact these programs are already having on growing our community.
Secured a Significant Legislative Win for Thousands in Low-Income Communities Through the Feerick Center
  • On New Year’s Eve, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Fair Consumer Judgment Interest Act (FCJIA) into law. The FCJIA substantially lowers the interest rate on consumer debt judgments, which promises to have a life-changing impact for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, including people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and people living in low-income communities and communities of color, who are disproportionately affected by debt collection. The bill’s passage is the result of intensive advocacy work undertaken by the Feerick Center, in partnership with the Law School’s Legislative and Policy Advocacy Clinic and their community partners Mobilization for Justice and The Legal Aid Society.
Augmented Race and Justice Programming
Launched Peer-to-Peer Diversity Workshops for Faculty
  • In line with the findings from the racial climate study, the faculty’s Teaching Committee has arranged a series of workshops to encourage faculty members to collaborate on incorporating racial context and implications in their teaching. Topics include “Incorporating DEI in the Curriculum,” “Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Curriculum and Classroom,” and more. This is in addition to the expanded DEI training we have offered to all full-time and adjunct faculty over the past two years.
Strengthened Anti-Racism Programming
  • We have centered our spring 1L orientation on anti-racism and DEI issues within law school and the legal profession. The new program was launched in January 2021 and continued in January 2022. This innovative programming was offered ahead of an ABA requirement established in February 2022 that all law schools provide similar anti-bias programming. In addition, 1L students were offered a robust DEI workshop through the House System in the fall of 2021.
Moved Our Strategic Plan Process Forward
  • Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—led by Professors Bennett Capers and Elizabeth Cooper and composed of faculty, administrators, and students—has analyzed the findings from the community-wide racial climate study undertaken in spring 2021. They will use that analysis to inform the development of a DEI Strategic Plan for the Law School. The committee has focused on four action areas: Faculty Hiring, Admissions, Curriculum Reform, and Opportunity Structures (e.g., journals, moot court, clerkships, career development, and material needs). Committee members have been meeting and consulting with members of the Law School community to inform their work and shape further action.

While we can celebrate all we have achieved thus far, we know that our work to fulfill the promise of equal justice is not yet complete. We look forward to continuing our efforts to further develop Fordham Law School as a place of belonging that all students, staff, and faculty can truly think of as theirs, and maintain our optimism that we can do our part to build a society that is racially just, equitable, and inclusive.


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