Thomas Jefferson School of Law presented its 16th Annual Women and the Law Conference, Pursuing Excellence: Diversity in Higher Education. The conference brought together leading academics, educators, institutional leaders, and policy makers to examine how diversity in institutions of higher education affects and inspires students, faculty, and leaders.
With more than 150 people attending the February 5, 2016 event, discussions focused on a number of critically important topics including facilitating educational access for undocumented students, challenges to developing and nurturing a diverse educational environment, and the importance of training students in professional programs (including medicine and law) to serve diverse populations.
Bryant Garth, Thomas Jefferson Law Board of Trustees, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC Irvine School of Law, former Dean at Southwestern Law School and Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Director of the American Bar Foundation, delivered the keynote Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture.
“In view of the Supreme Court's new examination of the role of diversity in university admissions, the timing is perfect for this conference; and Thomas Jefferson, with its long commitment to diversity, is the ideal venue,” said Garth.
Under Prop 209, California became the first state to ban the use of race and ethnicity in public university admissions, as well as hiring and contracting. Since its adoption in 1996, California's most selective public colleges and graduate schools have struggled to assemble student bodies that reflect the state's demographic mix. The United States Supreme Court is currently considering the second iteration of the case Fisher v. University of Texas, with a decision expected by the end of June. This case centers upon whether or not affirmative action violates the constitution and the 14th Amendment right to Equal Protection for Fisher, a white female.
Additional discussions focused on a number of critically important topics including facilitating educational access for undocumented students, challenges to developing and nurturing a diverse educational environment, and the importance of training students in professional programs (including medicine and law) to serve diverse populations.
“The interaction between diversity and admissions, financial aid, faculty, the student body and the future can be difficult to navigate, especially when the number of people aspiring to be lawyers is in serious decline,” said President and Dean Thomas Guernsey. “But considering the state of the profession, diversity isn’t an option, it’s our lifeblood. We find tremendous value in leading conversations on diversity in education.”
A leadership roundtable concluded the event with prominent panelists Toni Atkins, Speaker of the California Assembly; Adrian Gonzales, Interim Superintendent/President and Vice President of Student Services, Palomar Community College; Vallera Johnson, Administrative Law Judge; and Susan Westerberg Prager, Dean, Southwestern Law School, former Dean at UCLA School of Law and Executive Director/CEO of AALS.