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Diversity & Inclusion

Dear Members of the Delaware Law School Community:

Issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism are of paramount importance in law, society and higher education.  The Delaware Law School (DLS) of Widener University is deeply committed to these values, not only in words, but through deliberate, constructive and ongoing action now and into the future, including in recruitment, the learning environment, bar passage, and career placement, among other areas. 

DLS has taken an institution-wide approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  In 2020, DLS recognized and apologized for not having done enough in the past about these issues and pledged to commit to do more.  Through the collaborative efforts of students, alumni, faculty and the administration, DLS instituted its inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan, as an initial step to address matters relating to diversity and race and help create and foster a more diverse, inclusive and equitable learning and working environment for all its constituents.  The Dean of the Law School  whole-heartedly embraced and endorsed the Delaware Law School’s adoption of the  Strategic Plan and the plan was unanimously approved by the Law Faculty on October 22, 2020.


Download the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan as a pdf.


Through concrete action steps, with partnerships and collaborations extending through every level of the Law School, and with greater levels of communication, transparency, and accountability, DLS strives to create an environment that is respectful of our students and that is diverse, inclusive, and free from any forms of racial harassment, hatred, or discrimination.

The approach DLS is taking ensures the highest levels of transparency, cultural competency, curricular and course offerings on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), admissions and promotion standards, as well as sanctions for failure to abide by the University’s Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Nondiscrimination Policy.


Some of the 2020-21 initiatives include:

 

  • The newly created Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion position, filled in July 2021 by Joseph D. Farris III, Esq. (see announcement here).  Filling this position was the Law School’s highest hiring priority.
  • The newly created Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was constituted and commenced operations by November 30, 2020, and includes members of law faculty, administrators, students, and alumni.  This committee organized listening sessions, implemented training of faculty, will conduct regular audits, with the Asst. Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will conduct and support training of students and administrators, and ensure compliance with the Strategic Plan.
  • The creation of a comprehensive plan for promoting cultural competency in the curriculum.  The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will liaison with the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to develop a comprehensive plan for enhancing the coverage of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the Law School Curriculum. This Comprehensive Plan is planned to be developed and published by December 1, 2021.
  • Enhancement of curriculum and course offerings on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  DLS has committed to the provision of course offerings related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the spring and fall semesters. Since January 1, 2021, DLS has offered such courses, including courses in Critical Race Studies, Immigration Rights, and Equality and the Law.  The Delaware Law Faculty has, and will continue to provide training and education for faculty on how to incorporate issues germane to race, diversity, equity, and inclusion in courses throughout the curriculum.
  • Delaware Law Engages. Each year the Standing Committee selects a book or other medium is as required reading or watching for all incoming students as part of Orientation and the 1L curriculum. In 2021, the book Choosing Equality: Essays and Narratives on the Desegregation Experience by Robert L. Hayman and Leland Ware was selected as the focus of Delaware Law Engages.  The subject of the book: the impact of Brown v. The Board of Education and the desegregation experience in Delaware – one of the four states whose segregated schools led to the famous Supreme Court opinion in 1954.
  • Law School practicum courses and pro bono service on social justice issues. DLS will continue the social justice academic programs that began in the summer of 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. One such program involves the Law School’s Medical-Legal Partnership—the Health, Education, and Legal assistance Project (HELP), which has been awarded a Health Equity Grant from New Castle County to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the County’s vulnerable communities, and to develop mitigation plans for legal advocates and other advocacy groups. 
  • Admissions pipeline to promote diversity in Delaware Law admissions and the legal profession.  DLS will continue to engage in efforts to further its goal of increasing diversity in the student population and will examine ways to retain students of color and other underrepresented groups. In furtherance of this goal, Dean Rod Smolla and Asst. Dean Joseph Farris are serving on a task force partnership with the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and the leadership of Delaware State University. The task force seeks to enhance pipelines from middle and high schools to Delaware State and then to admissions to Delaware Law School in order to enhance diversity at the Law School and by extension the Delaware bar and bench.
  • Workshops sponsored by the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
  • DEI Climate Survey. The Standing Committee conducted both student and employee surveys in Spring 2021. The DEI Student Climate Survey is available here (pdf). The Employee Climate Survey is available here (pdf).

Values Statement

Widener University Delaware Law School Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Acknowledging that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, Widener University Delaware Law School (Delaware Law) values equity, inclusion, and diversity in all facets, including recruitment and admissions, curriculum and courses, hiring and retention, and licensure and career development. We invite all members of the Delaware Law family to participate in transforming our institution into a productive agent of progress, peace and social justice.

Delaware Law is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. We strive to be racial justice educators and advocates. We denounce all forms of discrimination, hate groups, hate speech, systemic racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, misogyny, and injustice. We do not tolerate racial hatred and racial discrimination at the law school. We pledge to transform Delaware Law, to educate with purpose, and to make racial justice a reality for our students, our alumni, and our extended legal community.

Delaware Law stands by our students, faculty and clients who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We acknowledge our role in perpetuating systemic racism and white supremacy through unconscious bias, microaggression, privilege, and complicity. Restless and energized, we are determined to assist in the dismantling of a legal system in Delaware and elsewhere that has excluded our Black and Brown brothers and sisters in particular from the values we hold dear.

We acknowledge the need to listen to those who have suffered from systemic racism and will support those who have the courage to speak up and speak out in response. We are committed to do our part in bending the arc of history toward justice.

Read Dean Smolla's Personal Note on Diversity and Race (pdf).

Values Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (pdf).

“The legal profession is, rightly, well-regarded and held in high esteem – but exclusivity diminishes, rather than enhances, its reputation. It needs to be open to all if we are to widen the pool of talented lawyers for the future. ”

-David Edmonds, Legal Services Board Chairman