Law faculty vote to require diversity training after professor uses racial slur

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Stanford Law School (SLS) faculty have voted to require diversity and inclusion training for all instructors, in response to student outcry over racial issues within both SLS and the country at large. 

Last month, students and faculty condemned SLS professor Michael McConnell’s use of the N-word while reading a quote attributed to Patrick Henry. As outrage erupted on SLS email lists, across the country, protests roiled cities large and small over police brutality, anti-Black racism and the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis.

“I want to close by saying how too often complicit the law and legal institutions have been in creating the structural framework in which George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and so many others have been killed,” SLS Dean Jenny Martinez wrote in an email to the law school.

On June 1, Martinez convened a faculty meeting to discuss racial issues within SLS “with renewed urgency,” she wrote. At the meeting, faculty approved a proposal for mandatory classroom management training, “including diversity and inclusion.”

“This is one small step, and the faculty is aware that there are much broader issues in the way the law school addresses issues of race than the use of a single word,” Martinez wrote.

A spokesperson for Stanford Law School declined to provide additional information on the details or implementation of the training, writing that Martinez’ “email stands as the law school’s institutional statement.”

In light of national protests over the recent killings of Black Americans at the hands of police, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) has circulated a letter to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne urging the University to reconsider its relationship with police. 

“By asking students to contact police, even on their non-emergency number, in order to dispatch officers to students’ homes, Stanford has demonstrated at the very least its gross ignorance, or cold indifference to, police brutality in the United States,” the letter states. It also notes the influx of police on campus since the majority of undergraduates left due to coronavirus concerns. 

The letter outlines four central demands: dismissing non-Stanford police from campus, diverting University funds away from police, mandating de-escalation training for all community members and providing greater transparency regarding Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) policies and funding. The letter has received over 900 signatures of support from organizations and individuals in the Stanford community. 

SLS faculty will give “close attention” to the BLSA’s proposals, according to Martinez’s email. 

SUDPS spokesperson Bill Larson told The Daily that SUDPS personnel receive training on anti-bias and intercultural competency and de-escalation techniques, and that they “will continue to enhance our professional skills and knowledge in these important areas.”

SUDPS “recognizes and agrees that there are aspects of policing that must change in order to eliminate systemic racism and ensure equity, equality and a campus community where every person feels safe,” Larson wrote, adding: “We are committed to doing our part to create environments in which all community members are able to live, learn and work without fear of racism, discrimination, intolerance, and other forms of bias.”

Contact Grace Carroll at gac23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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