Building a welcoming, respectful learning and working environment

The UW School of Law is committed to diversity, inclusive excellence, equity and multiculturalism.

The school has recently committed to begin reporting on its progress toward diversity, equity and inclusion goals and initiatives, which are guided by the Strategic Plan for Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Multiculturalism.

“I remember being a law student in the early ‘90s — the battles for diversity and inclusion and being a student who demanded better responses from our administration,” said Mario L. Barnes, Toni Rembe Dean and professor of law. “The fact that I know the struggle is part of why I feel so deeply committed and responsive to the need for this work.”

“It is incumbent upon me, the faculty and staff, and all who are part of this institution to provide the community that our students deserve,” Barnes said. “We do this work for all people, but especially for those who have been underrepresented and feel alienated within our law school community.”

UW Law is pleased to share the following updates, progress and accomplishments on work related to diversity, equity and inclusion since the beginning of the 2019–2020 academic year.


Creating a welcoming, respectful learning and working environment

Community conversation

UW Law hosted a town hall meeting in January to discuss the diversity-related issues and concerns raised by students at the beginning of winter quarter in the 1L Perspectives class.

A follow-up meeting, which will feature a series of listening groups, is set for 4–5:20 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13. Locations include:

  • Room 115: Listening group on diversity in admissions
  • Room 117: Listening group on faculty diversity and creating an inclusive curriculum
  • Room 207: Listening group on creating a more welcoming environment

Discrimination and microaggression reporting

UW Law’s complaint process was updated and simplified. The academic policy Complaints Related to Inclusiveness, Respect and Cultural Competency was updated. The policy outlines the process and recourse for students who experience bias or microaggressions from faculty, staff or peers. It was implemented in 2011.

Students may report incidents they experience or observe online or by contacting Dean for Students Anna Endter. You may schedule an appointment with Dean Endter. You are also welcome to email Dean Endter directly or schedule an appointment via the Dean’s Office.

There is an identical process for faculty and staff to report bias or microaggressions as well. Those reports may be made via the same online form or directly to the Director of Human Resources, Equity and Engagement, Sellyna Ehlers, at ehlers59@uw.edu.

A link to the online form is now also available on the UW Law Diversity page.

Training

The Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion held three fall quarter trainings led by KJ Williams, founder of RISE with KJ, LLC. The sessions provided attendees with the tools for identifying and minimizing the impact of microaggressions. For those who missed the trainings, a podcast interview with Williams is available on this topic.

Guest presentation

The Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion organized a presentation on “The State of African-American Seattle.” Board members of the Seattle branch of the NAACP shared their thoughts on legal and policy issues impacting the local black community.

Climate survey

Last year, UW Law actively participated in the UW-wide climate survey effort. Thanks to support from the UW Law community, the school exceeded the 30% response rate that will result in our ability to receive data specific to the law school while guaranteeing participant anonymity. Participating in a University-wide survey allows for analysis of UW Law in the context of the broader UW.

The UW’s 2017–2021 Diversity Blueprint recommended a university climate survey to inform efforts to cultivate an inclusive campus climate. A climate survey was also identified as a priority for the UW Race & Equity Initiative’s work to confront bias and racism at the individual and institutional levels and transform institutional policies and practices. Additionally, the survey included questions related to sexual assault, harassment and misconduct as part of the UW’s responsibilities under Title IX.

Celebrations

UW Law will celebrate Black History Month and the annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week Feb. 24 – March 3. The UW Law community is invited to come together for events and discussions around what it means to be a diverse, inclusive and culturally competent legal institution.

Now in its seventh year, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week offers seven days of in-depth sessions centering on the wide range of issues facing the law school and legal profession today. Learn more about the activities planned.

Honoring place

This winter, students recommended that the school begin honoring place by acknowledging that our campus sits on occupied land. In response, we have added the acknowledgement to the diversity page on our website. Dean Barnes has begun speaking the language template during meetings and events at UW Law and has recommended that everyone hosting public meetings and event at UW Law do the same.

At the suggestion of a student, the recommended statement honoring place was also included as part of the room reservation confirmations. More information about the UW’s language honoring place is available on the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity website.

Dean’s Advisory Committee engagement

The Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion presented to new J.D. and LL.M. students as part of the Foundations of Legal Studies course in the fall. Students learned about the committee’s goals and work through subcommittees on admissions, curriculum, environment and events.

The committee continues to meet biweekly to discuss problems and concerns, propose solutions and advance the work of the subcommittees. For more information about the meetings, contact co-chairs Bill Covington at covinw@uw.edu or Lisa Castilleja at ecc93@uw.edu.


Integrating diversity into curricula

1L Perspectives course

The 1L Perspectives course is currently being considered by faculty for renewal. As part of the process, faculty are determining what improvements or restructuring the course might need. Students and the co-chairs of the Faculty Diversity Committee have been working with Dean's Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Curriculum Committee on review of the Perspectives course. Perspectives was first developed in response to students’ requests. It was originally offered as an optional course and was later made mandatory, again after student feedback.

Discussions regarding how to integrate issues related to unconscious bias, racism and microaggressions holistically into curricula are ongoing with faculty, staff and students.

Faculty Diversity Committee engagement

In the fall, the faculty Diversity Committee undertook a review of the 2017 strategic plan and interviewed all of the individuals who hold positions of accountability under the plan. With a substantial turnover in the law school administration, this process has been critical in formulating a plan moving forward. The committee will use this information to make recommendations to Dean Barnes on actionable steps to improve the school’s climate for diversity and inclusion.

The first faculty Diversity Committee began in the 2018-19 academic year, with a charge to:

  • Evaluate the school’s progress in achieving its diversity objectives, as set forth in the school’s Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Multiculturalism
  • Recommend to the faculty any appropriate changes to the plan
  • Identify ways for the school to increase the diversity of its faculty, staff and students
  • Assist Dean Barnes in improving the school’s climate for diversity and inclusion for faculty, staff and students

Recruiting, retaining and promoting the success of a diverse student body

Academic Success Program

UW Law launched the Academic Success Programs in 2019 to support all UW Law students seeking to develop as effective learners and lawyers. The program offers academic counseling to individuals and small groups through which students can learn more about available community resources and discuss ways to leverage learning strengths, as well as identify and tackle areas for growth. The program supports students with diverse learning styles, experiences and skillsets to help them achieve academic goals and become successful legal professionals. It also works to reduce the negative impacts of stereotypes and implicit biases on student success. Learn more about the program and the new assistant dean of Academic Success Programs.

Employer diversity definitions

In response to requests from students, we have posted information on our website communicating with employers the concern by our community that not all diversity programs have reached people who are historically underrepresented in the profession.

Pipeline programs

We continue to reach out to all undergraduate minority student organizations as part of our efforts to recruit a diverse J.D. class. We sent information through the UW OMAD college access programs, pre-law advisors, pre-law societies, including the UW Black Pre-Law Students Association, the UW chapter of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity and the Multi-Cultural Outreach & Recruitment team. We also sent recruitment announcements to undergraduate, minority-registered student organizations.

Building a diverse applicant pool

UW Regent Blaine Tamaki and his wife, Preciosa Tamaki, have pledged $10,000 over two years to support diversity training and pipeline events geared at building a diverse applicant pool.

This gift will build on UW Law’s work through external partnerships, such as the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity and the Supreme Court’s Minority & Justice Commission, to meet with more than 600 students from diverse backgrounds annually in order to further efforts to diversify the law student applicant pool. More information about the gift is forthcoming.

Student funding

Student support, which is a powerful tool for recruiting diverse students, continues to be a leading fundraising goal. The Tamakis have pledged $150,000 in diversity scholarships over the next two years to create five new diversity scholarships annually. Another individual donor, who is not a UW Law alumnus, has pledged $100,000 to create an endowment to recruit and support Latinx students, beginning this Fall. More information on these gifts is forthcoming.

Diversity resources

Student and Career Services has expanded its online materials for students to include additional diversity-related resources. These resources include the latest diversity fellowship postings and application support, affinity bar association mentorship programs, diversity career fair listings and a compilation of research tools to help law students and lawyers research diversity programs and data of legal employers. Students may access the resources via Canvas (UW NetID required).


Recruiting, retaining and promoting the success of a diverse and inclusive faculty

Shefelman Faculty Workshops

The Shefelman Faculty Workshops is a colloquium series that provides a forum for provocative and innovative legal scholarship and an opportunity for faculty to exchange ideas with other scholars, foster relationships with other institutions and collaborate on works in progress. The series, held weekly through the academic year, features scholarly presentations on a wide array of innovative topics by a diverse pool of speakers. Topics this year have included The Paradox of Automation as Anti-Bias Intervention by Prof. Ifeoma Ajunwa of Cornell University and cross-cultural communication and the effect in entrepreneurship by Prof. Xiao-Ping Chen of the UW Foster School of Business.

Library materials

The law library continues to acquire a wide variety of material on diversity-related issues, from diversity in the legal profession to racial equity in the criminal justice system to the role of race and the history of property rights.

Here are just a few of our recent acquisitions.

For more, see our guides:


Promoting access to justice and legal representation for underrepresented communities

Tribal Court Clinic funding

The Tamakis pledged $40,000 over two years to support the Tribal Court Clinic. As part of the Native American Law Center at the UW School of Law, the Tribal Court Clinic partners with the Tulalip Tribes to serve as the primary public defender in criminal cases filed in their Tribal Court. Learn more about this clinic. More information about the gift is forthcoming.

Access to justice

In 2018, the Alliance for Equal Justice launched a coordinated plan to advance access to civil legal aid for low-income, vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities in Washington. Dean Barnes spoke at the Alliance’s board meeting this winter about how students leverage opportunities to address goals set forth in the landmark Washington State Plan for the Coordinated Delivery of Civil Legal Aid to Low-Income People.

UW School of Law students are making significant impact through student pro bono work, the law school’s participation in the Washington State Bar Association Moderate Means program, and—under the rubric of experiential learning—through our clinical law and externship programs. Learn more about UW Law’s impact on this effort.