Exploring Race and Racism in the Law School Curriculum: An Administrator's View on Adopting an Antiracist Curriculum
38 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2021 Last revised: 2 Dec 2021
Date Written: March 15, 2021
This article provides a candid assessment of the demanding, and rewarding, work that is required to put into action the written words of institutional support for implementing an Antiracist curriculum. This article starts by describing the two Penn State Dickinson Law faculty resolutions that committed the faculty to condemn racism and bias against our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, while committing to teach and learn according to Antiracist pedagogy and best practices. It then describes the resolve to become Antiracist teachers, discusses the investments in curricular policy and reform, and details the bureaucratic processes to accomplish the following: adding a first-year required course on the history of racism and the concept of equal protection of the laws in the United States; adding a J.D. degree requirement that every student take at least one course beyond the first year with subject matter focused on civil rights, equal protection, or social justice; adding a certificate program in Civil Rights, Equal Protection, and Social Justice; and encouraging faculty to re-envision their courses to identify opportunities to integrate discourse about racial equality. The article then explores the knotty but essential task of equipping faculty and staff with the tools needed to deliver an Antiracist curriculum. The law school initiated this task by launching a summer workshop series designed to conduct an honest assessment of the educational community’s past failings while providing the resources needed to alter the law school’s future course. To accomplish these objectives, the workshops embraced a model that encouraged risk taking, allowed for blunt feedback, and created plenty of space for mistakes. In closing, this article offers guidance on how to ensure a sustainable commitment to the delivery of an Antiracist curriculum, including the importance of sharing the implementation work with faculty committees and student organizations. The path from commitment to implementation has involved bumps and curves, some anticipated and others unexpected. As the path continues, a guiding principle remains: to fulfil our responsibilities as legal educators uniquely positioned at “the nexus of power and understanding necessary for change.”
This article is one of three interdependent articles authored by Penn State Dickinson Law faculty and staff, and all three articles will be included in a forthcoming volume of the Rutgers Race & The Law Review. These articles are meant to be read together to chart the vision and implementation for building an Antiracist law school and providing a template for an Antiracist legal academy and legal profession. The other two articles in the trilogy are: Danielle M. Conway, Rebekah Saidman-Krauss & Rebecca Schreiber, "Building an Antiracist Law School: Inclusivity in Admissions and Retention of Diverse Students—Leadership Determines DEI Success"; and Dermot Groome, "Exploring Race and Racism in the Law School Curriculum: Educating Anti-Racist Lawyers."
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