The last several months have both tested and demonstrated our resilience, as a school and a community. Since the start of the pandemic, we have witnessed and experienced uncertainty, isolation, anger, fear, and general unrest. I have also witnessed and experienced optimism, hope, joy, and immense appreciation.
In March, the law school transitioned to 100% online teaching in a matter of days. Despite being physically separated, our students and clinics have continued to provide valuable public service to our communities. We’ve engaged thousands of alumni and community members virtually for several events, including the Class of 2020 commencement ceremony, Colorado Law Talks, and the Alumni Awards Banquet. To prepare for a mix of in-person and remote learning this fall, we underwent a major upgrade of the technology in Wittemyer and Carrigan courtrooms, Garden Level Conference Room, and many of our classrooms to make remote participation possible. As you’ll see throughout this issue of Amicus, we have not just survived the conditions of the last nine months, we have thrived.
Yet recent events have also shown where we have room to improve. While we have seen impressive gains in the number of students of color and LGBTQ students over the last several years, we have not done enough to foster a fully anti-racist, diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment for everyone in our community. In July, I announced the Anti-Racism and Representation Initiative, which springs from my renewed commitment—as dean of Colorado Law and personally—to take and promote bold, practical, and effective steps to confront racism and advance greater inclusion. It has nine objectives and related steps, which I invite you to examine.
As a school and a profession, we have an obligation to be fully inclusive of those from groups that have endured racism and its continuing effects or that are otherwise marginalized. Advancing representation of these groups in legal education and the legal profession is an imperative for justice’s sake, as well as for the sake of ensuring a legal education for all our students that includes the diversity of perspectives and experiences present in society, and ensuring a legal profession and justice system that reflect, are responsive to, and have the confidence of all those they serve.
We also have a special role to not only defeat racist practices and symbols but to correct the national narrative of American identity to one of inclusion, an essential step in uprooting racism. It is no longer sufficient to simply renew our commitment to inclusion and diversity. We must also commit to combating racism and all its manifestations around us through all that we do—our teaching, scholarship, public service, and community engagement. This requires us to look both inward, to do better as a law school, and outward, to call out and contribute to eradicating racism and its legacies in the society around us.
This work is neither quick nor easy. Individually and collectively we seek to gain greater cross-cultural competency and awareness. It’s not all about seeing immediate results, but we’re cultivating the seeds of a new consciousness to develop a more inclusive law school, profession, and society. By reexamining our practices, beliefs, assumptions, and biases, and improving on the ways we recruit, hire, and nurture students, faculty, and staff to reach underrepresented groups, we are planting seeds that will bear fruit in the coming years. What’s before us is a monumental task. We all have a special role to play, as lawyers, educators, students, and members of society. I invite you to join me in this important work to confront racism and elevate representation in any way you can.
S. James Anaya
Dean and University Distinguished Professor