After law school administration failed to immediately address a racially charged question brought up during a round-table discussion on Nov. 5, law students drafted the letter as a call to action.
About a week after the roundtable discussion, law school Dean Martin Brinkley sent a faculty-wide email on Nov. 13 addressing the comment and reiterating the law school’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.
On Friday, law students released the call to action, addressed to all law school administrators, faculty and staff, in response to Brinkley’s remarks.
“During the course of the event, which was otherwise engaging and informative, Dean Brinkley and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Kelly P. Smith failed to address a racist premise in a student’s question,” the letter said. “The student suggested that there was a correlation between UNC Law’s ranking and the hindering effect of being forced to satisfy some diversity quota.”
In addition to the roundtable incident, the letter also included a list of suggestions aimed at solving this issue.
Student Bar Association President Nana Asante is one of the individuals who drafted the letter.
“We wanted to use this letter as a learning opportunity for the larger Carolina community and as a mechanism by which to begin to gain a greater understanding of the experiences of students of color at Carolina Law,” Asante said.
Tamar Birckhead, law professor and director of clinical programs, said she signed the letter written by the law students as an observer and supporter of the letter’s purpose, goal and mission.
“I think this letter has to be looked at in the context of what’s going on at campuses across the country right now because things like this rarely happen in a vacuum,” Birckhead said. “There are students at Missouri, at Yale, at Penn and at a number of other universities who are raising the question of whether or not the atmosphere of these institutions is inclusive, tolerant and supportive of students of color.”
On Monday evening, Brinkley and Smith sent out the email announcing the task force, along with other steps such as convening a town hall meeting in the spring and conducting anonymous assessments to track the school’s progress as it aims to be more inclusive and diverse.
“While this response is a good step in the right direction, our goal is to leave a footprint, which means actualizing these efforts in order to determine what deeper issues need to be addressed,” Asante said.
She said it is important that the school maintains dedication to realizing these ideas by placing reliable and meaningful deadlines on the matter.
“I think when we have discussions about spaces for students of color, often there is this rhetoric that says as long as we’re having a discussion, then we are making progress, which leaves a false sense of security and progress,” Asante said.