We are all absorbing today’s Supreme Court ruling which will have profound effects on our society, higher education, and our law school.
Expanding access to the legal profession has been central to our mission for more than a century. As President Tania Tetlow has so eloquently written in her statement on this ruling, Fordham was founded and built with the goal of opening doors to those who had been excluded, enabling individuals from marginalized groups to partake in America’s promise.
This mission is true for the Law School as well as for the University as a whole. A diverse and inclusive law school student body enriches the legal profession by adding voices and perspectives that would otherwise not be represented. Fordham’s historic mission has played an important role in more fully realizing the ideals of our democracy, given the pivotal role of the legal profession in our nation’s institutions of government and the position lawyers hold as leaders in society.
This emphasis on inclusion is a core part of our approach to education. It is rooted in Fordham’s Catholic and Jesuit tradition. All of our students benefit from the rich diversity of experiences that our students bring to bear on their studies. As the amicus brief of Catholic Colleges and Universities submitted to the Supreme Court explains, “Catholic institutions of higher education strive to provide an education that furthers Catholic values of rigorous thinking, understanding of and empathy toward people of different backgrounds, concern for the poor and underserved, and leadership in service to others. Having a campus community comprised of students with a broad array of experiences and perspectives, including a variety of racial identities, is integral to that iterative learning process.” This approach is particularly important to educating lawyers. Studying law is all about coming to terms with differences in perspectives, something which is impossible to do effectively if the student body reflects only a portion of the richness of our society.
I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Equal Protection Clause, which articulates our nation’s highest aspiration to racial justice and equality, in a way that will make it more difficult for universities to achieve diversity in their communities. Our daily experience in a city such as ours reminds us that this is a society in which race matters in complex ways, and that structural racism persists, despite our efforts. The Court does recognize that students’ experiences of overcoming a range of hardships and challenges can still be valued and considered, stating that “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” Yet, by requiring an individualized showing, the Court fails to come to grips with the scope and significance of racism in our society and undercuts universities’ ability to further what the Court recognizes as the “commendable goal” of diversity.
In the coming days and weeks, Fordham Law School, along with academic institutions across the country, will be reflecting on how we can best comply with this decision while maintaining our commitment to creating an equitable and inclusive community. I will continue to communicate with you about our efforts to address structural racism and make Fordham Law more inclusive.
At this moment, I want to assure all members of the Fordham Law community that our dedication to creating a learning environment in which all our students can thrive and have their experiences honored and respected is unwavering. We value diversity and inclusion of all kinds, including racial diversity and inclusion. We believe that, as a law school, our mission includes educating lawyers to serve a diverse city, nation, and world. Fordham Law School will do everything that it can to pursue this mission within the bounds established by the Court.
With warm regards,
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law