Monday, October 24, 2005

Law School, Light And Dark

I've been accused in the past of running a law blog about my law school since google led someone here once who was searching for my law school and blog. I don't, of course, run a blawg, and if I did, it wouldn't be about law school. Especially this one. Of course, I am in law school, so the subject is going to come up sometimes.

Like today.

Several interesting things to note about my alma mater today. Most of them aren't good.

First, a truly awful editorial decision by the new editor of the school's independent website. The editor decided to run an editorial written by a student who finds fault with our health services office. Acknowledging, perhaps, a widely held belief that law students are incapable of reaching a conclusion unless it is spelled out by a professor or contained in an Emmanuel's outline, he decided to post this disclaimer before the piece:

As the new editor here at the "i" I think it's important to not censor. However, please keep in mind that the following is an editorial. It certainly speaks for itself. In order to present a fair view, let me say that there are those that have been served well by the Student Health Services, me included. I just did not want to present an unfair picture. However, please enjoy the piece below. I will try not to preface further editorials with this warning, but this being the first issue of the new "i", I felt it was important to not present an overly biased view.
Perhaps someone should give the editor a copy of Black's Dictionary that includes the word "Editorial" and then assure him that most readers, having perhaps perused a newspaper or magazine once or twice, know that editorial = opinion.

Alternately, the editor could always employ the heading "Op-Ed" and prove that he's completed Publication 101: Sections of a paper.

Of course that's just totally my opinion and doesn't reflect the opinions of anyone reading this site or commenting here. Maybe. I mean, I don't know. Maybe I should ask them.

Sorry, that was mean. But it's a tough world [wide web] out there.

The piece, however, isn't bad. It does, in fact, capture a lot of student frustration here at school right now. The author is a little shaky on school funding and institutional history, but he's a 1L, so we'll forgive him. He loses points at the end for closing with "Thank you for your attention," but we'll let that go too, given the truly absurd opener with which the site's editor has blessed him.

The next bit of campus news involves a wall poster, a student-body-wide notice, and some questions.

Seems that sometime a few weeks back, someone defaced some poster, somewhere, somehow, and some people were offended. I say this with little passion because though we were informed that the defaced documents advertised a La Raza sign and a Students of Color Outreach Day sign, we - the students - have no idea what was said. I suppose it is valid to argue that repeating the alleged offensive remark is unproductive. Then again, it's hard for me to be outraged at "stickers with handwritten racially driven comments on them[.]"

But what has appeared in response to this unspeakable (literally) act of something is a large petition that says the following:

On October 7th, 2005, members of the Hastings community found racially motivated vandalism on the La Raza notice board. Stickers with handwritten racially driven comments on them were attached to both the La Raza sign and flyers for Students of Color Outreach Day.

In light of this vandalism, and in recognition of the history of racism in this country, of which hate speech is one manifestation, we pledge to take affirmative steps to address racism within UC Hastings, whether institutional or personal, that we encounter in our education and our practice.

Further, we pledge to end our complicity in historical amnesia surrounding racism, to continue educating ourselves and our communities about the history of racism and continuing prejudice even at the most rarified levels of academia and professional life.

We call on the faculty, administration, and staff of Hastings to commit to making anti-racist institutional change at Hastings, including the hiring of a diversity consultant, increased diversity in recruitment, hiring and tenure of professors, increased recruitment of students of color and increased support for such programs as Students of Color Outreach Day, diversity workshops during orientation, and a first year curriculum that encourages and facilitates open, honest and constructive engagement with issues of racism in the law.
It should not shock readers that I will not sign this document. But let me explain why.

The "Concerned Students" petition and distributed flyer bears no seal of approval for posting, nor contact name, number, or email.

The lack of detail about the events prompting this petition makes it impossible to thoroughly evaluate the situation at Hastings. These concerned students should go back to Evidence class and recognize that evidence makes your case stronger. I'm not saying I need to see the offensive stickers, but again, how do we know what we're fighting against? There's certainly a problem with anyone defacing flyers generally - vandalism is wrong - but that isn't the problem. Hate speech is. They might want to go back to Con Law as well. The expression of "hate" speech here involved defacing school property. That is a punishable offense. The content of the speech may be cause for immense concern. But again, I don't know what the hell it said.

Also, I am not complicit in historical amnesia surrounding racism. I won't sign a document falsely admitting that I am. This picks up from posts about the VRA over the past few days in which I argue that streets called "Jefferson Davis" should not be our primary targets in easing racism in America. Erasing the word doesn't make the history disappear, just our memory of it. That's bad.

The concerned students authoring and signing the petition, though asking for student action earlier in the document, close with a call only to the faculty, administration, and staff. Perhaps in a fluid campus environment, this is all that can be done since students here today will be gone 3-years from tomorrow. Hiring a diversity consultant, however, is something I am not likely to endorse anytime soon. Additionally, any implementation of "sensitivity" or other similar training can have disastrous results for a community. My undying fear is that Hastings, or any organization, would employ someone like Lillian Roybal Rose who in a single day managed to fracture my adopted family of Fellows nearly beyond repair. But that's my bias on the issue. Either way, the school currently can't afford . . . hell, anything anyway.

There are about a thousand standard retorts to what I've just written about my views on this petition. Most of them would likely chalk my view up to ignorance, cultural insensitivity, or just plain racism of my own, I'd hope that regular readers remember that my views on such things - like the views of most people - are a touch more nuanced than whatever knee-jerk reaction this might provoke. Or perhaps you agree. I don't want to presume things about readers anymore than I want them presumed of me.

Unsigned petitions of unclear origin will never find favor here. This may be a desperately needed call - but who can tell. And who could be asked?

Hastings seems to have a lot of problems keeping bias out of the classroom. To me, this is clearest in the pervasive, openly-hostile attitude toward conservatives here on campus. No one has defaced any flyers, but classroom commentary frequently reveals a bias from both behind the lectern and in front of it. Remember, I'm a Democrat, so that this bothers me should set off alarms. Claremont, for all its conservatism in the faculty offices, kept all of that crap far from the classroom, encouraged open discourse, and made stronger citizens for it. Hastings fails miserably on this front and should be reprimanded accordingly.

If they fail as well when it comes to racial discourse, that also deserves attention. But not like this.

4 comments:

I spend too much time reading this blog said...

Should the writer of the editorial add "JMO" at the end of his/her piece?

cd said...

probably.

and, "too much time," don't worry - i mean, how could you help it?

j/k.

amarprit said...

At least the writer didn't include a comic. *cringe*

As for conservatism on campus I love it when professors manipulate the course material to push their particular world view. Recently I had an econ professor who could consistently prove, using nothing more than straight lines and the sagely light that is economics, that every social program we have in existence is Bad For People. Good times.

mary said...

cd - you know my feelings on Hastings. I am one of about 4 conservative students. I absolutely denounce as you do the actions of those few that reflect poorly on us as a student body, but I also will not sign the petition for similar reasons (not becuase I am a racist republican, as most of my classmates would think upon hearing that I am conservative). I think that there is a lot wrong with Hastings, and there is some right. Hastings is in the process now of hiring a new dean. I think it is important for the students not only to denounce acts, but to actually DO something about racism on campus and bias in classrooms. Here is the chance. Is it all talk, or not?

I went to a conservative undergrad as well, but politics and biases were pretty much checked at the door. I was shocked at Hastings, and since I routinely surround myself with a fairly liberal crowd not much shocks me (as a conservative). In order to be a leading legal institution, as it claims to want to be, a lot needs to be done to turn things around. But then again, to a lot of the administration, there is no bias in the classroom because they are too blind to see it.