In an effort to confront society’s history of racial inequity, the GW Law faculty passed a new antiracism resolution by unanimous vote on Juneteenth, resolving to promote individual and institutional accountability for combatting racism. The resolution was submitted at a special faculty meeting and was approved the same day, with all faculty members voting in favor.
The resolution argues that "our country has a pervasive and enduring history of systemic and institutionalized racial oppression" and cites recent events that have exposed grave racial and economic inequities, including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of color and the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
"This is a defining moment for GW Law," said Interim Dean Christopher A. Bracey. "We cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening within our country, its impact upon our community members, or its connection to the multi-generational arc of justice that shaped our nation’s history. As lawyers, legal educators, scholars, and advocates, we have a duty to help eradicate racism in all its forms."
The resolution states, "We, the faculty of the George Washington University Law School, hold ourselves accountable for engaging in the daily work of combating racism as individuals and as an institution. We pledge to approach these efforts with humility and respect, mindful of the importance of listening to and learning from those of us most impacted by systemic oppression."
The resolution calls for further assessment of classroom teaching to eliminate racial and cultural bias, as well as the increased hiring of people of color in faculty and staff positions. It encourages anti-bias training for faculty, staff, and students and seeks to improve the recruitment of students of color by strengthening ties at historically black colleges and universities and working more closely with the GW Black Law Students Association and other affinity student organizations within the law school.
Through the resolution, the faculty also commits to recruiting the finest lawyers to teach students about inequality and racial oppression within the justice system and further investing in the intellectual life of the school on matters relating to racial justice. Workshops and seminars on race-sensitive teaching will be developed, and the curriculum will be evaluated for possible changes in emphasis. Finally, the resolution called on the law school to conduct an institutional policy review regarding the reporting of bias and discrimination.
"The GW Law community is so special—namely, our ability to come together to support one another in times of crisis, to lift one another as we climb to new heights, and to serve as thought leaders in a world that looks to us for guidance. I applaud our faculty for taking this critical step forward in striving to dismantle the injustice that has defined the struggle of African Americans in this nation for centuries," said Dean Bracey.
WHEREAS, our country has a pervasive and enduring history of systemic and institutionalized racial oppression, which is reflected in ongoing inequities in criminal justice and incarceration, education, health care, economic opportunities, and political power; and
WHEREAS, the devastating and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities has laid bare these grave racial and economic inequities; and
WHEREAS, the killings of George Floyd and so many others expose an unconscionable and long-standing pattern of brutality, violence, and dehumanization committed against people of color; and
WHEREAS, far too often, the calls for justice in response to violence and brutality committed against Black Americans and other people of color go unheeded, which defines “the struggle of African Americans to overcome more than 400 years of white supremacy and the mendaciousness of systemic racism in this country” (This and other quoted language is from a Message from Interim Dean Christopher A. Bracey, June 2, 2020); and
WHEREAS, “there is a profound disconnection between our nation’s professed ideals of equality under law and the reality of devastating modes of racial oppression operating not only within our nation’s police departments, but throughout our local, state and national political offices”; and
WHEREAS, silence and inaction by individuals and institutions, particularly those with power, privilege, and influence, perpetuate systemic and institutional racism; and
WHEREAS, our faculty “cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening within our country, its impact upon our community members, or its connection to the multi-generational arc of justice that shaped our nation’s history”; and
WHEREAS, our role as lawyers, scholars, advocates, and educators compels us to strive to dismantle systemic and institutional racial oppression within ourselves, our law school, and our broader community; and
WHEREAS, our faculty repudiates and condemns racial and economic oppression, including the violence that flows from it;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that we, the faculty of The George Washington University Law School, hold ourselves accountable for engaging in the daily work of combatting racism as individuals and as an institution. We pledge to approach these efforts with humility and respect, mindful of the importance of listening to and learning from those of us most impacted by systemic oppression. We understand that these measures depend on collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni/ae. We pledge to continue to collaborate closely with the GW Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and other student organizations focused on these issues. Our efforts to address racial inequity within GW Law School will include, but are not limited to:
(1) Evaluating and improving classroom teaching and culture to understand and eliminate racial and cultural bias, consistent with the University's guidelines on exercising and defending academic freedom;
(2) Seeking, hiring, promoting, and retaining people of color as faculty, staff, career counselors, and administrators, to the extent permitted by applicable law;
(3) Researching, offering, and encouraging bias training for faculty, staff, and students;
(4) Improving recruitment of and support for students of color by, among other things, expanding ties at historically black colleges and universities and collaborating more extensively with BLSA and other affinity student organizations;
(5) Educating our students about inequality and racial oppression within our justice systems through the recruitment of outstanding lawyers to teach seminars, courses, and reading groups and the promotion of series and programming on these issues;
(6) Dedicating faculty investment in the intellectual life of the school on matters of racial justice, in its many manifestations;
(7) Developing workshops and seminars on race-sensitive teaching as well as possible changes in curricular emphases and course materials; and
(8) Implementing an institutional policy review regarding the reporting of incidents of bias, discrimination claims, accommodations, and grievances.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, this resolution be preserved in the records and minutes of The George Washington University Law School Faculty and prominently displayed on the GW Law website.
Adopted unanimously this 19th day of June, 2020.