With Liberty and Justice For All
June 30, 2020
We are facing an historic moment like no other in our lifetime. How we respond as individuals, as a school, as communities, and as a nation will determine our future. As the tragic death of George Floyd and so many Black Americans has made clear: we have a long way to go to ensure that every man, woman, and child in this nation experiences equal protection under the law.
I stand with our students who are calling for justice and an end to racism. I am proud to have women and men of courage and conviction at Scalia Law.
Allow me to be perfectly clear:
- Racism, as a “case,” has no defense.
- Racism, as “history,” is without justification.
- Racism, as “politics,” has no Party.
But, of course, words without action are meaningless. Action is needed, and it must begin without delay.
At the law school, we have heard our students and we are committed to doing our part. And that includes taking a hard look inward. Where there is racial inequity of any kind at Scalia Law, it will not stand. Let me repeat that: racial inequity will not stand at Scalia Law.
The way forward will not be easy. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I am committed to pressing hard to ensure that Scalia Law is up to the challenge. Meaningful change will require all of us to work together, faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Everyone.
To do this, I am creating a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force to examine what we currently do, where we may have fallen short, and what next steps need to be taken. The Student Bar Association will conduct elections for the student representatives next week, and immediately after will work with me to finalize the remaining members of the committee so it can begin work as soon as possible. I expect the Task Force to develop and recommend an action plan by gathering facts, identifying racial inequities, considering alternative remedial actions, ranking priorities, and suggesting workable timelines.
We also need to do a better job letting our community know what we are currently doing to further diversity and inclusion at Scalia Law. Part of my goal as Dean has been to make significant investments in this area and I am proud of the work that is already in progress.
- We’ve invested in diversity and inclusion education opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff.
- We’ve made diversity and inclusion and effective classroom dialogue part of our incoming student orientation.
- We’ve created a faculty committee on classroom dialogue to ensure that we are doing all we can to create an atmosphere in which differing student and faculty perspectives and opinions on the law can be productively shared and exchanged. Every opinion, every voice – students’ as well as teachers’ – demand our open-mindedness and respect. The committee, which was formed early in the Fall semester, will be providing me with an update and preliminary recommendations in the coming weeks.
- On the admissions front, our team has always worked to matriculate as diverse of a student body as we can. But this has challenges and we aren’t where we want to be, so we continue to be creative with new outreaches and ideas. We are exploring additional ways to make legal education accessible to as many students as possible, including to students with full-time jobs or other responsibilities that require flexibility in attending law school. We are also designing pipeline programs with one or more Historically Black Colleges and Universities to add new pathways for student admission into law school.
While these are examples of things that we currently do, we need to do more. This is where we can use your help. In the coming weeks, the Task Force will call on students and alumni to send ideas, concerns, and proposed solutions. Please participate. You’ve been instrumental to our success so far, and together, as the Scalia Law community we will carve our path forward.
National healing begins in our families, our neighborhoods, and our schools.
We have an important challenge ahead. For this endeavor to be successful it is essential that everyone involved come to the table with goodwill, mutual respect, open-mindedness, and civility.
Goodwill. Mutual Respect. Open-Mindedness. Civility.
Let’s get to work!
With Liberty and Justice for All, I wish you a happy and safe 4th of July!
Onward and Upward!
Henry N. Butler
Allison and Dorothy Rouse Dean
GMU Foundation Professor of Law
Executive Director, Law & Economics Center