￼￼￼Editor's Note: This letter was written in response to The Daily Reveille's Nov. 7 article "Previous stories erroneously portray Law Center" and The Civilian's November 2014 articles, "In Response to Recent Publications on Diversity at the Law Center" and "Another Perspective."
Dear Mr. Rome and Ms. Faulk,
We submit this commentary in our individual capacities and not as official representatives of the LSU Law Center. Recently The Reveille and the Law Center’s Civilian publications have featured articles on the racial climate at the LSU Law Center. After profiling a law student’s personal experience with allegedly racially-charged violence, The Reveille subsequently repudiated its initial article and questioned the validity of the student’s account. The current issue of The Civilian features articles further undermining the student’s credibility and criticizing him for, among other things, sullying the public image of the Law Center.
These developments and the opportunities they present are very timely. The Law Center has recently established a Diversity Task Force in the wake of a number of incidents in which race, gender and sexuality-based animus have revealed themselves in troubling ways. Despite the progress the Law Center has made with female and minority enrollment, troubling incidents continue to happen within our community. These challenges are not unique to LSU. They reflect how historic inequality and discrimination continues to affect us all. They force us to reconcile the truth of our past with the inevitability of our future. These and other matters underscore the importance of a meaningful institutional approach to diversity.
Many are uncomfortable discussing diversity, much less acknowledging that discrimination remains a problem worthy of our collective concern. Some prefer only to highlight the progress made to date - too often as a way to downplay present claims of discrimination. Others lament the rise of “political correctness” and the demise of “personal responsibility.” These responses stifle any rigorous engagement with how historically marginalized identities operate in institutions.
In such an environment a student’s willingness to speak up about his experience with
discrimination is a very risky affair. The consequences are many and potentially devastating for the student’s future. The risks of being branded a “trouble-maker” or being accused of “embarrassing the institution” are high. Those who speak up are often quickly silenced. Consequently, the discrimination they experience is compounded and institutionalized. The fear of retribution chills any possibility for an open, deliberative and humane discussion.
The Reveille’s repudiation of its initial reporting and the Civilian articles in many ways contribute to this pattern.
Here at the Law Center we prepare the nation’s lawyers, jurists, advocates, legislators and others who will inevitably be on the front lines of building a more perfect union. We have failed them if – when confronted with allegations of racism, sexism or homophobia – their first concern is with the airing of “dirty laundry.” We do them a disservice if they leave here ill-equipped to have tough conversations about the ongoing work of creating a more inclusive society.
Issues of racism, sexism or homophobia have never been solved by closing ranks and marginalizing the messengers. Laudable progress with diversity should never be used to muffle or silence inquiries into the extent to which there remains hostility towards members of the institutional community based on their identity.
The mark of an open and inclusive community is not how few incidents of discrimination occur, but rather what happens when they do. A true commitment to increasing diversity recognizes that culture must change and marshals the institution to create spaces where disclosure and deliberation can occur. Indeed, we have work to do.
Professors Andrea Carroll, Elizabeth Carter, John Church, Michael Coenen, John Devlin, Phillip Hackney, Robert Lancaster, Lee Ann Lockridge, Missy Lonegrass, Christina Sautter, Margaret Thomas, Christopher Tyson, Beth Williams