The Office of Diversity, Equity and Community coordinates the law school's efforts to foster a community that fully reflects its culture of anti-racism, non-discrimination, diversity, equity and belonging for all students, staff and faculty. DEC works with the Vanderbilt Bar Association and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council as well as with student affinity groups to ensure that our students feel supported, fully represented and deeply valued. Beyond the law building, DEC represents the law school within Vanderbilt University and liaises with the Provost's Office for Inclusive Excellence and the Vanderbilt Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Through this role, DEC serves to build a central node of action, accountability and transparency in relation to the school's efforts to promote anti-racism, non-discrimination, inclusivity and belonging.
It works with community stakeholders to advance our core values in all aspects of law school life:
In progressing this work, DEC also coordinates with these groups to promote anti-racism, LGBTQIA+ representation, gender equity, and religious and viewpoint diversity in a concrete and systematic way throughout school life.
DEC’s current initiatives include support for the Dean’s Speaker Series on Race and Discrimination, the VLS Book Club on Racial Justice and Civil Rights, the EDI Council/VBA/DEC Mentorship Program for Underrepresented Students, scholarship and resources for students working on public-interest projects, promoting careers-related programming, and developing initiatives which foster educational equity.
We are so thrilled to celebrate Pride month at Vanderbilt Law School. This is an occasion for profound joy to mark the strides our country has made in ensuring that LGBTQIA+ people can seek the fullest and freest expression of who they are. As lawyers, we celebrate the role that the law and judicial system have played in helping secure greater equality and representation for LGBTQIA+ people – and we are proud that Nashville attorneys have been leaders in this fight. Despite this progress, there is still much work left to be done to fight the routine bigotry, inequality, forced invisibility, and violence endured by LGBTQIA+ people. At Vanderbilt Law, we strive to build a community of supportive students, staff and faculty that is truly welcoming and uplifting of our LGBTQIA+ members. Within our community, we are deeply committed to ensuring that that through education, skills-building, social outreach and civility, we can contribute to the goal of building a fairer, more equal and truly affirming world for LGBTQIA+ people where they never have to worry, for a single moment, about being exactly who they are.
We mark one year since the murder of George Floyd and reflect on this period of immense turmoil, grief, reflection as well as on the possibility for progress. As we all are aware, this past year has given rise to a national confrontation with the evils of systemic racial injustice, bigotry and police violence and underscored the significance of the law as a force for moving us toward an equal, humane, and more just society. As a law school, we have sought to rigorously examine our own institutional practices to ensure that these most fully reflect a steadfast and active commitment to anti-racism, anti-discrimination, inclusion and belonging. The 2020 Steering Committee’s Report identified a number of recommendations, covering virtually all aspects of school life, to more deeply realize our values and institutionalize changes that reinforce our mission as a place to cultivate learning, practice service, achieve personal growth and to do so within a community of mutual support, understanding and civility.
In these coming weeks, we will provide a report highlighting steps taken to follow the Steering Committee’s recommendations, ongoing work, and to set out our goals for the coming academic year. Recognizing the need for securing lasting structural change, our status report will underscore the need for us to work together as a community to continuously commit to our values, share ideas, develop allyship and recognize the responsibility we all have to one another in the struggle for racial justice and equality. We cannot afford to stand still. This tragic anniversary serves to underscore our moral responsibility, as much as our national one, to mourn, reflect and strive for progress toward securing our highest and best ideals as an institution serving the cause of justice and the rule of law.
We, at Vanderbilt Law School, are deeply shocked and saddened by the recent wave of anti-Semitic hatred sweeping across our nation. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and express our sincerest sympathies for the victims of this disgusting and senseless violence. As this year of tumult continues, we must confront yet again the horrifying specter of hate, brutalization, intimidation, and pain within our minority communities – and we must, yet again, condemn it in the strongest possible terms. At Vanderbilt Law School, we will absolutely not tolerate any form of aggression, incivility, discrimination or bigotry – and we will stand together to ensure that our Jewish students, staff and faculty feel fully supported and protected. Such despicable acts only serve to reaffirm our commitment to one another and to our mission as a center of learning devoted to realizing rule of law and the cause of social justice.
We would urge all members of our community to remain vigilant and to take the time to look out for themselves and others. Please immediately report any threat or instance of anti-Semitism, hatred, discrimination or aggression to the law school administration. Those worried about risk to their safety should call 911 immediately (if outside campus), or Vanderbilt Police at (615) 421-1911 if within the campus grounds.
We, at Vanderbilt Law School, have been sickened and profoundly saddened by the recent spate of hateful violence against Asian communities across America and the horrifying, evil killings in Atlanta. Our first thoughts lie with the victims of this violence, their families and communities. We mourn the lives of Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie Tan, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun and we wish Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz fullest recovery from his injuries.
As this devastating wave of hate sweeps across the country, we are reminded of our most solemn duty as a law school community – to ensure that our staff, students and faculty come together in solidarity to condemn hate, discrimination and bigotry in the strongest possible terms. We stand up for one another and we ensure that our students, staff and faculty feel welcome, valued and protected at all times. Throughout the unprecedented challenges of this last year, and the racial reckoning that is underway in our country, we are also reminded of our mission as an institution of learning and action – to build a community of lawyers that are educated about the long and difficult history facing Asian-Americans and communities of color in America, to serve the rule of law and to help move our country’s lived reality towards a more equitable, fairer and decent future.
At this challenging time, we would urge all our community members to be mindful of the safety and well-being of others and to immediately report any instances of bigotry or hate around campus to a member of the law school administration. If members experience or witness any potential for or actual violence, please call 911 immediately or Vanderbilt Police on (615) 421-1911.
We, at Vanderbilt Law School, mourn the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Daniel Prude, Breonna Taylor and so many other Black people who have been the victims of police brutality and racial injustice. We also condemn the shooting of Jacob Blake. As our nation is gripped by this moment of historic reckoning, we are reminded of its scarred beginnings, the constant struggle for freedom and civil rights for all, and the enormity of the work that remains to be done for our country to truly realize the ideals set out in the Constitution.
As a law school, we resoundingly reject racism and discrimination in all its forms. We strive to create an environment that is welcoming of all, inclusive, and committed to ensuring that every member feels themselves to be a full part of its community. Moreover, we are also deeply mindful of our role in teaching new generations of lawyers whose words and actions will continue the fight for racial justice, civil rights, equality of opportunity, and the rule of law. Put simply, we know that it is our responsibility to foster and maintain an anti-racist environment within our walls, as well as to equip our graduates with the educational and experiential tools they need to become anti-racist and productive members of the legal profession and society at large.
To that end, we are committed to building an engaged and visible program of Diversity, Equity and Community that underscores the significance of anti-racism and anti-discrimination across all aspects of law school life from the curriculum to our engagement with the broader community. Over the summer, we convened student, staff, and faculty task forces to develop a set of actionable recommendations to ensure the School can achieve the highest standards of inclusivity, diversity and community belonging. We are eager to begin this work.
We see that the lived reality of Black people and people of color falls far short of what is promised by our country's founding principles, laws, and guarantees. Looking forward, we are committed to harnessing the power of a legal education to continue the work of generations of Vanderbilt lawyers in the fight for the fullest attainment of the civil rights, equality and justice offered by the Constitution.
As lawyers, we aspire to uphold the rule of law, ensure equal treatment for all and protect individual rights. In recent days, we have seen how far we are from our aspirations. We are called to close that gap.
The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others form part of a long and tragic history of racial violence and injustice. It has been painful for all of us to witness these tragedies, but I know that it has been particularly difficult for our students, alumni, staff and faculty of color, particularly the Black and African-American members of our community. Our Black Law Students Association chapter issued a powerful statement that speaks to this anguish.
My heart, like yours, goes out to all who have been affected by these atrocities, and I know you join me in condemning the hatred, fear and racism that lie beneath.
As lawyers, words are our stock in trade, so we know how much words matter. And they do. But actions matter more, and it is time for us to act. As an initial step, I have created a faculty task force to explore the role that faculty can play in enhancing racial justice, and I will work with BLSA, other student groups and staff to do the same.
I am confident that our community has the energy, creativity and resolve to address the challenges that confront us, and I commit that we will take actions in the coming weeks, months and years that will make you proud of your Vanderbilt Law School.