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Community Message from Dean Bruce Smith

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Sturm College of Law

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Dear Members of the Sturm College of Law Community:

I write to you with a mix of emotions – among them, outrage, anger, frustration, and sadness.  I also write to you with defiance and resolve.

As a community, we have borne witness to the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others.  These appalling instances of racial violence take their shameful place amongst countless other such incidents – both witnessed and unwitnessed – dating back through the Civil Rights Era, to Reconstruction, to the nation’s settlement and founding.  They occur against a backdrop of a global pandemic and associated economic dislocation, which themselves have disproportionately impacted communities of color.

Earlier this week, I joined the Chancellor and other University leaders in an open letter condemning racism, prejudice, and inequity, and committing to the fundamental systemic change that must occur across our nation, state, city, and University.  I now offer reflections in my roles as a legal educator, lawyer, and law dean. 

As members of a law school community, we have an important and distinctive role to play in combating racism, injustice, violence, and oppression.  At the Sturm College of Law, our history and mission also call upon us to do so.  From our founding, our law school has been committed to social justice and community action – a legacy that continues in our clinics, externships, and postgraduate public interest fellowships.  In the 1960s, we led the nation’s law schools in efforts to diversify the legal profession and to ensure that the benefits of legal education are available to all.  Our faculty features leading experts in community economic development, civil rights, criminal procedure, critical race theory, equal protection, free speech, and public health – subjects that bear acutely on the current crises that we are confronting as a society.

For all that we have accomplished as an institution and as a community, we must do more.  In the coming days, I will be convening with student leaders to listen to their perspectives and concerns and, with them and others, to chart our future institutional course.  As your dean, I pledge to you this.  As an institution, we will denounce racism and injustice, actively and defiantly.  We will work to foster understanding, tolerance, and community.  We will engage in timely and difficult conversations about ourselves and our institution.  And with attention to our fundamental legal-educational mission, we will recommit ourselves to ensuring that students at the Sturm College of Law receive the training, resources, and support that will empower them to be bold, influential, and lasting agents of social change – change, tragically, that continues to be so needed and so overdue.


Bruce P. Smith
Dean and Professor of Law


June 15, 2020 - Proposed Action Items