Editor Chandler Rome published this on 11/07/14 to address the erroneous portrayal of the Law Center and a lack of reporting in this story.
There are only three African-American, full-time law professors at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center.
Segregated until 1950, the Law Center is making efforts to combat the apparent lack of diversity. Jack Weiss, chancellor of the Law Center, appointed a diversity task force on Oct. 23, in a broadcast email to produce results by early 2015.
The discussion on the Law Center’s diversity was sparked after a third-year law student, Robert Kyle Alagood, made a Facebook post about the issue. Andrew Hairston, president of the LSU National Black Law Students Association, saw the post, and the pair contacted administration.
Alagood issued a letter via email on Oct. 20 to Weiss, carbon-copying LSU President F. King Alexander, Executive Vice Chancellor, Provost Stuart Bell, Vice Provost for Diversity Dereck Rovaris Sr. and Law Center faculty.
According to the letter, Alagood’s call to action was to make a public and active stand for racial diversity. The coalition of students proposed in the letter to increase diversity among staff, establish structural cultural resources and implement policies and education concerning diversity.
“It has been an observation of mine that there is a clear lack of cultural competency at the Law Center,” Alagood said. “The law’s school history of being segregated contributes to the wrong-headed idea that race is touchy and we shouldn’t talk about it.”
The Law Center will host Apprenticeship Week from Jan. 5 to 9, a one-week course taught by practicing lawyers — two of the 17 lawyers are African-American, Alagood said. The selection committee didn’t think to ask if the lack of diversity was a problem and a reflection of the diverse numbers the law school is trying to see, he said.
“I made a conscious decision during my second year to take courses with nontraditional professors,” Hairston said. “The fact that the law school only had three black professors drew me to come here.”
First-year law students are divided into three sections for scheduling purposes. According to the law school website, only one section has the opportunity to take a course with an African-American professor unless an elective is scheduled.
“No one is more anxious to find a solution the faculty and staff at the Law Center,” Weiss said.
In Alagood’s letter, he calls for a vice chancellor for student affairs and diversity. The LSU Board of Supervisors voted for the Law Center to merge with the main University in March, although Alagood said he is unsure if Bell would handle diversity issues at the Law School.
“Everything the Law Center does is due to financial constraints and priority basis,” Weiss said. “I can’t commit to hiring a new administrator, but I will give it serious consideration if the task forces proposes it.”
Other southern universities, like the University of Mississippi School of Law and Florida State University College of Law, have a separate vice chancellor for diversity or student affairs. LSU’s Law Center currently has a chancellor for business and financial affairs, academic affairs, institutional assessment and faculty development — but not one for diversity.
Darrel J. Papillion, chair of the Baton Rouge Bar Association, will spearhead the diversity task force. Student Bar Association President Kenneth Barnes, LSU Legal Association of Women president Molly Brannon, Hairston and other faculty members will serve on the task force.
Eight of the 36 full-time professors are women. According to Alagood’s letter, the diversity numbers show the assumption that older white men are the only “masters lawyers and judges.”
“Southern, Loyola and Tulane are in the top rankings regarding to female enrollment,” Alagood said. “There’s not a problem with getting women going to school in Louisiana. The problem is getting them to attend LSU.”
Alagood addressed the lack of diversity, but acknowledged the diversity in the student body has grown.
According to the American Bar Association, African-Americans represent about 15 percent of enrollment, Asians represent about 1.5 percent and Caucasians represent about 82 percent of student enrollment.
Compared to the Southern University Law Center, it leads in terms of diversity with minority numbers as 35 percent of the historically black university’s enrollment numbers.
The Law Center’s website states that the African-American student population has seen a 12 percent increase since 2004.
Alagood said the Law Center needs to overcome its current image as the “white people law school.” As a member of the diversity task force, Hairston said it’s a step in the right direction.