"As educators of future lawyers who will have important roles in society that will inevitably bear on issues of equality and racial justice, and with our public service mission, we have a special obligation to work to embed anti-racism in the legal education we provide, and to confront racism and inequality in society in every way we can."—Former Dean S. James Anaya
Updated June 28, 2021
In July 2020 University of Colorado Law School Former Dean S. James Anaya announced a comprehensive new initiative to confront racism and its persistent effects around us, and to advance the representation and genuine welcoming of Black people and other marginalized groups within the University of Colorado Law School community and the legal profession.
Through a range of programs and actions, the Anti-Racism and Representation Initiative promotes bold, practical, and effective steps to confront racism and advance greater inclusion. This page will be updated continuously over the next year based on progress.
University of Colorado Law School Anti-Racism and Representation Initiative
An anti-racism agenda
1. Build awareness about racism and its manifestations, as a foundation for a genuinely inclusive environment, for providing a high-level legal education to all our students, and for anti-racist action
Generate opportunities for discussion about race in society and its continuing legacies
Work to eliminate racially insensitive behavior and microaggressions within the law school community
Provide training on
- Race and cultural competence, and on how to constructively discuss such issues
- Implicit bias, how it works in relevant decision-making, and how to eliminate it
First-year students were assigned as optional summer reading A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki. The book retells American history from the perspective of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and others. Incoming students were asked to reflect on racism’s pattern of thinking and its deployment in the treatment of marginalized groups as the country developed. At 1L Orientation, Former Dean Anaya and Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence Fernando Guzman facilitated a discussion with 1Ls about the book’s themes. Law school staff also met in small discussion groups to discuss the book.
Assistant Dean Guzman is leading training for faculty and staff on implicit bias and microaggressions. Other campus-led trainings are being made available.
Professor Deborah Cantrell created and facilitated the school’s first-ever 1L Anti-Racism and Intersectionality Caucus this fall. Caucus conversations focus on what it means to be an anti-racist and how members of the Colorado Law community can support intersecting aspects of identity, including gender and sexual orientation. The caucus provides an opportunity for students to explore anti-racism and intersectionality more generally by learning about white fragility and white privilege and will apply frames of anti-racism and intersectionality to the law and the legal profession. Participants consider how their own experiences in law school do, or do not, acknowledge systemic racism and injustice, and do, or do not, help support our own efforts to be anti-racist and attentive to intersectionality. Students in the caucus are encouraged to foster other similar caucus conversations amongst their peers. In April 2021, the caucus released its first newsletter to the Colorado Law community.
The fall Faculty Colloquium focused on race and policing, voting rights, and immigration detention, with talks by University of Southern California Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law Jody David Armour, USC Gould School of Law’s Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Law Franita Tolson, and University of Denver Sturm College of Law Associate Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández.
2. Promote anti-racist pedagogy and curriculum, to equip our students with necessary knowledge about racism in society, the experiences of people of color, racism’s relation to the law, and law’s tools for combating racism
Encourage and provide resources for instructors to enhance inclusion of culturally diverse perspectives related to material being taught, and to engage critically with the issues of race and inequality that are imbedded in most courses
Establish and seek funding for a chair or professorship on critical race theory or related subject about the role of race in the law and society
Building on existing courses, develop a unified curriculum and propose to the faculty a certificate on civil rights and racial justice
Propose to the faculty a graduation requirement of completing a course, independent study, or prescribed readings on diversity and race
- The law school faculty approved on April 23, 2021, a certificate for a course of study on civil rights and racial justice.
This spring, Colorado Law offered a seven-part Inclusive Classroom Seminar Series to equip Colorado Law faculty to engage critically with the issues of race and inequality that are embedded in most courses. The series was created and led by Professor Rabea Benhalim, faculty director of the Anti-Racism and Representation Initiative, in collaboration with CU Boulder’s Center for Teaching & Learning.
The annual faculty retreat, held on Aug. 21, 2020, focused on inclusive pedagogy as a central theme, with breakout sessions following guest speaker G. Marcus Cole, Joseph A. Matson Dean and professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. Dean Cole spoke powerfully about his upbringing, transition into the legal academy, and move into the deanship at Notre Dame. He discussed his experience in the classroom and how he selected course materials in a way that foregrounded issues of racism, sexism, and social inequality. Dean Cole engaged the Colorado Law faculty in dialogue about student perceptions, fairness to faculty of color, expected and unexpected challenges facing faculty of color and women in the academy, and ways to create better and more hospitable environments.
The law school’s William A. Wise Law Library developed a webpage with Anti-Racism Resources for Teaching and Learning.
An example of a course that was newly revised to include anti-racist pedagogy is Associate Professor Nadav Orian Peer’s course in Financial Institutions, which was redesigned for fall 2020 to focus on the history of financial segregation, its effects on communities of color, tools available for civil rights lawyers working on financial issues, and paths towards reform.
The law school has implemented a voluntary Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Pledge Program. Based upon the structure of the existing highly successful Public Service Pledge, participating students will agree to undertake a minimum of 50 hours of law-related diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism work, activities, or educational opportunities not for credit or compensation during their time at Colorado Law.
An extensive database of teaching resources, compiled by Associate Professor Rabea Benhalim, will be shared with faculty and staff.
3. Combat racism and its effects through our public service and community engagement
Strengthen support for public service projects of law school clinics and programs that combat racism, including, but not limited to:
- The Korey Wise Innocence Project to assist wrongly convicted people, who in a significant number of cases were wrongly convicted because of racism in the justice system
- Programming of the Getches-Wilkinson Center to address environmental racism and climate justice for people of color
- The Byron White Center’s work to address social justice issues related to racism in democratic processes
- The Silicon Flatiron Center’s work to advance greater inclusion of people of color in technology law and policy
- The American Indian Law Program’s project to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the American Indian Law Clinic’s projects to advance redress for historical and ongoing injustices
- The Immigration and Citizenship Law Program’s work to support immigrants
- Law clinical work to support immigrants and advance racial justice
Sponsor a series of public lectures on racism and the law
Establish and seek funding for a lectureship for an annual speaker on a topic related to racism
Gifts to the Dean's Fund for Excellence were channeled to provide funding to the Korey Wise Innocence Project to hire a recent graduate as a fellow, to support the American Indian Law Program, and to support the Immigration and Citizenship Law Program.
While providing ongoing support of all the law school’s clinics, the law school filled a gap in continuing funding for the Civil Practice Clinic, which under the direction of Clinical Professor Zach Mountin assists low-income and underrepresented workers in their legal disputes. The clinic is also assisting low-income individuals, many of whom are people of color, facing eviction from their homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Appellate Advocacy Practicum was reinstated. Adjunct Professor Matthew Cushing now directs the practicum, which enables students under his guidance to represent parties in civil appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the Colorado Court of Appeals. Many of the cases taken up by the practicum are on behalf of low-income clients and/or people of color. Recent cases include matters of excessive force by police and racial profiling.
This fall, the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law hosted a virtual speaker series exploring topics including police reform, citizenship, protest lawyering, voting rights, racial justice, and critical race theory. Additionally, the law school and the center welcomed Douglas Spencer, an election law scholar and professor at the University of Connecticut, as a distinguished faculty fellow for 2020-21.
The Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment welcomed two Water Fellows this fall. One fellow, Jaime Garcia, is working on the Universal Access to Clean Water in the Colorado River Basin Project, which was recently launched by the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative to raise awareness and understanding about the lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities in Native American communities in the Colorado River Basin, and to engage leaders to provide universal access to clean water on the tribal reservations in the basin.
The Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship began a new student series on Diversity in Technology Law and Policy. Each panel will focus on the quest for and inherent challenges to diversity and inclusion in the tech law and policy space, addressing common issues faced by a particular underrepresented community. Topics include race, economic privilege, and accessibility.
In September 2020, Colorado Law launched the Race and the Law lecture series, an interactive virtual series focused on the relationship between race and the law, with the objective of generating thinking about the barriers to and possibilities of the law serving as a vehicle of racial justice. Sessions are open to law school students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the broader community. Each session includes time for small-group discussions to spark ideas for action. The series will run through 2021, and will address such topics as racism’s continued presence in federal law and judicial decision-making, tackling racial bias in the midst of a global pandemic, race and the Constitution, and more.
4. Adopt symbols of inclusion and commitment to anti-racism
Promote resolutions by the faculty and staff recognizing the destructive role of racism in legal and other educational institutions historically, committing to combat racism and advance equality as an institution and individually in all opportunity to do so, and committing to continually work toward being a law school that is itself free from the vestiges of racism and inequality
With student, staff, and faculty input, work to name law school spaces after, or to include portraits in our spaces of, people whose lives were devoted to combating racism
Advance a practice of acknowledging the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples as the original inhabitants of the land on which the law school is located, at the beginning of all law school-sponsored public gatherings
- To celebrate the many achievements of alumni of color, and to increase representation of alumni of color throughout the Wolf Law Building, this fall the William A. Wise Law Library featured a display of alumni of color and books about representation in the legal profession.
An agenda for increasing representation
5. Review and improve our recruitment of and climate for students from communities that have historically been subjected to racism and are underrepresented in legal education and the legal profession
Further develop and formalize a student recruitment plan that identifies Black and other underrepresented undergraduate student populations across the country and methods of engaging them effectively
Evaluate our admissions procedures and make necessary adjustment to ensure that they are equitable and conducive to generating greater representation of Black and other students of color
Work to secure adequate funding for Leaders in Law and Community (LILAC) and other scholarship programs to enhance access for students from underrepresented groups to a Colorado Law education
Develop a summer program to provide admitted students of color and others an introduction to the law and legal education, thereby enhancing their capacity to succeed in law school
Develop a program of outreach to high school and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to build pipelines to law school
Work to enhance financial and other support for the Black Law Students Association, the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, the Latinx Law Students Association, and the Native American Law Students Association
Enhance academic and other support resources to meet the specific needs of students of color and enhance their capacity for success
Promote and sponsor events that educate about and celebrate the cultures, contributions, and aspirations of the diverse communities represented at the law school, and that in doing so generate greater inclusion of students of color in the life and identity of our community
The law school designated a space for BIPOC students, called the "Solidarity Suite," to be managed by the Council for Racial Justice.
- The admissions office has developed a comprehensive plan for enhancing recruitment of students of color and others from underrepresented backgrounds.
To increase access to students from underrepresented groups and low-income communities, Colorado Law's Mini Law School, an eight-week program for non-lawyers, is partnering with Law School…Yes We Can, the Southern Ute Tribe, pre-law advisors, and high school mock trial teams across the state to offer Mini Law School at significantly reduced registration fees or for free.
Colorado Law has also partnered with the Roaring Fork Pre-Collegiate Program, in which high school juniors from Colorado’s Roaring Fork and Summit school districts spend two weeks on the CU Boulder campus exploring college options for their futures. During their visit to CU Boulder, high school students meet with Colorado Law faculty, staff, and current students, learn about law school, what lawyers do, and the requirements to be admitted to law school.
The law school worked with the Latinx Law Students Association on programming around Hispanic Heritage Month, with the Native American Law Students Association on programming in association with American Indian Heritage Month, and with the Black Law Students Association on programming around Black History Month.
Colorado Law partnered with Boulder law firm Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC on a series of four free community panel discussions entitled "The Roots of Today’s Racial Exclusion in Boulder County and the Road Ahead." The first three panels will discuss the history of exclusion of Black, Native American, and Hispanic American communities from Boulder County, as well as resistance to exclusion by those groups. The first panel on Feb. 25 focused on the exclusion of Black residents from the city of Boulder and featured Quintard Taylor, Professor Emeritus of American History, University of Washington, and a specialist in African American history in the American West (moderator); and panelists Penfield Tate, III, an attorney, former Colorado state legislator, and son of Boulder’s only Black mayor; Charles Nilon, professor of environmental science at the University of Missouri and son of CU Boulder’s first tenured Black faculty member; and Polly Bugros McLean, associate professor of media studies at CU Boulder and author of A Legacy of Missing Pieces: The Voices of Black Women of Boulder County.
6. Increase the representation of international students, including through our graduate programs and student exchanges
Generate greater understanding that the international students at the law school provide opportunities for exposure to different cultural backgrounds and that the exposure enhances cross-cultural competency within our community
Develop and fund a scholarship program specific to international students who are from groups that are underrepresented and marginalized in their own countries
7. Update and enhance our faculty and staff hiring, promotion, and mentoring practices, to achieve greater representation and retention of Black people and others from underrepresented groups, and thereby be more inclusive of experiences and perspectives related to race and disadvantage, and with that strengthen our ability to adequately deliver on our educational and public service missions.
Further develop and formalize strategies and procedures for developing applicant pools inclusive of those from communities that have been subjected to racism and are underrepresented in legal education and the legal profession
Ensure that all those involved in employment decisions, including members of appointments committees and faculty voting on hires, complete implicit bias training mandated by the CU Boulder campus
Review and ensure that the criteria and methodology for hiring, evaluation, and promotion, both formal and informal, do not discriminate against or disadvantage, either intentionally or in effect, people from underrepresented groups
Establish and seek funding for new chairs or professorships that could attract or help retain faculty members from underrepresented groups
Strengthen mentoring and professional development practices to better cultivate and retain faculty and staff members from underrepresented groups, and advance for them opportunities for leadership
The law school’s appointments committee has reviewed methodology for hiring faculty and is working to develop procedures to generate more diverse applicant pools. All committee members have completed implicit bias training.
The Mastermind Group Initiative, a peer-to-peer group of faculty and staff, will be piloted in fall 2021 to promote the career growth and development of participants, enhance a sense of community across the law school, and provide opportunities for participants to learn about each members’ work and identify potential collaborations.
8. Work to increase representation of people of color in law school events, which will increase the quality and social impact of the events
Develop a checklist of steps for organizers of events to ensure that events are welcoming to and attract the participation of people from diverse backgrounds
Develop guidance for event organizers to encourage and assist them to be inclusive in selecting speakers and panelists
The law school is creating an anti-racist event guide to support event organizers in creating inclusive programming. The guide includes advancing the practice of land acknowledgement of indigenous peoples, offering closed captioning, evaluating lecture topics, being intentional about partnering with businesses owned by people of color, and more, to offer well-rounded, inclusive, and engaging events.
In order to attract the participation of people from diverse backgrounds at events, the law school has launched a monthly events email. The purpose of this email is to increase the law school’s outreach to the Colorado legal community and other community members who do not have a current affiliation with the law school. The law school is contacting specialty and diverse bar associations to encourage members to subscribe to the communication.
Included in the anti-racist event guide will be recommendations for event organizers in implementing inclusive practices when selecting speakers and panelists. Strategies to make events more diverse and inclusive are to conduct research, refine solicitations for topic proposals, designing inclusive outreach, reducing barriers for submission, and focusing on subject matter. The law school will collect data to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of event organizers’ implementation of the new initiative and recommendations set forth in the anti-racist event guide.
9. Promote greater representation of people of color in the legal profession, which is required for the profession to reflect and be more responsive to the entirety of the diverse community it serves
Develop and communicate to potential employers expectations and best practices for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and retaining Black and other students and graduates of color
Work to expand and improve legal employer participation in the Colorado Pledge to Diversity, by which legal employers commit to hire students of color and other students from underrepresented backgrounds for the summer after the 1L year
Encourage and help guide legal employers’ efforts to develop internships or fellowship programs for students from underrepresented groups
Strengthen collaboration with the Center for Legal Inclusiveness and other existing initiatives to advance greater diversity in the legal profession
Fund the Career Development Office to support attendance by students of color at job fairs and similar opportunities throughout the country
The Colorado Law Career Development Office (CDO) has redoubled its efforts to be more inclusive when inviting employer and alumni participants to its fall 2020 programming.
The CDO has also reviewed and revised its nondiscrimination policy for employers, including using more current terminology.
The CDO has suggested a number of revisions to the Colorado Pledge to Diversity 1L Summer Clerkship Program, though which legal employers commit to hire students of color and other students from underrepresented backgrounds, that will make the program even more inclusive and welcoming for students’ participation.
The CDO has established a liaison position with the Center for Legal Inclusiveness.