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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dear Members of the Delaware Law School Community:

In my official role as Dean I whole-heartedly embrace and endorse the Delaware Law School’s adoption of a new Strategic Plan addressing matters relating to diversity and race.

The Delaware Law School (DLS) of Widener University is taking an institution-wide approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  DLS apologizes for not having done enough in the past about these issues and pledges to commit to do more —this Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan (pdf) seeks to achieve that.

Issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism are of paramount importance in law, society and higher education. DLS is deeply committed to these values, not only in words, but through deliberate, constructive action now and into the future, including in recruitment, the learning environment, bar passage, and career placement. 

Through the collaborative efforts of students, alumni, faculty and the administration, DLS has instituted a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan. The plan was unanimously approved by the Law Faculty on October 22, 2020, and work is already underway on some of the recommended actions.


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 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 new initiatives include:

 

  • The creation of a new position, an Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Filling this position is the Law School’s highest hiring priority.
  • The creation of a new Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will include members of law faculty, administrators, students, and alumni. This committee will organize listening sessions, conduct regular audits, implement training of faculty, students, and administrators, and ensure compliance with the Strategic Plan. This Committee will be constituted and commence operations by November 30, 2020.
  • 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 (when hired) to develop a comprehensive plan for enhancing the coverage of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the Law School Curriculum. This Comprehensive Plan will be developed and published no later than 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, such as courses in Critical Race Studies, Immigration Rights, and Equality and the Law, in the spring and fall semesters.  This commitment will begin effective January 1, 2021.  The Delaware Law Faculty will also provide training and education for faculty on how to incorporate issues germane to race, diversity, equity, and inclusion in courses throughout the curriculum.
  • 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 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 is 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. 

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