Increasing Diversity and Supporting Our Students
Historically, Fordham Law has opened its doors to people not welcome at other law schools due to their religion, gender, race, or class. Today, we are building on this legacy by working to create a learning environment that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive to students of all backgrounds, religions, and orientations, and to ensure that students from underrepresented groups have the support and services to thrive.
Action Items and Status
Bolster Diversity Leadership
Created and filled a new director of diversity, equity, and inclusion position to oversee diversity initiatives, strategy, and planning. Kamille Dean has been appointed to that role, working with Kimathi Gordon-Somers, dean of student affairs. In the spring, Jennifer Haastrup, a licensed social worker and certified crisis counselor, was appointed the diversity, equity, and inclusion program manager. In addition, retained Madeline Maldonado, LCSW-R, a clinical therapist and adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Social Work, to provide support to law students outside of the normal Counseling and Psychological Services business hours through group and individual counseling on a number of issues relating to well-being, stress, and mental health, with an emphasis on issues faced by first-generation students of color. Read more.
Launch New Scholarships
Launched the new Deborah A. Batts Scholarship program, honoring the first tenured African American member of the Fordham Law faculty and the first openly LGBT member of the federal judiciary. The scholarship, which was seeded by funds donated by Fordham Law faculty members and alumni, will provide support for students dedicated to using their legal education to promote social justice, civil rights, and equality. The first two recipients, Cameron Porter ’23 and Lamar Smith ’23, were named in February 2021.
In addition, the Law School will draw on money previously donated to the Law School scholarship fund and part of its operating budget to establish the Lawrence W. Pierce scholarship program. The program will provide opportunities to support students from historically underrepresented groups in the legal profession. It is named in honor of Lawrence W. Pierce ’51, who had a distinguished career in public service and was the third Black judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Fittingly, we launched these scholarship programs together as Judge Pierce was a mentor to Judge Batts.
Support Peer Mentorship
Foster greater peer mentorship among our students of color by supporting the peer mentorship programs within affinity groups, in collaboration with the Office of Professionalism. Additionally, support the efforts of Alumni Attorneys of Color to act as professional mentors for underrepresented 1Ls. The Office of Student Affairs is also coordinating mentorship efforts with diverse 1L students to provide peer support and expert guidance from alumni.
Support Student-Led Programming, Advocacy, and Engagement
Provide support through the Office of Student Affairs for student affinity organizations to develop programs, host events, and foster advocacy around issues facing students from underrepresented backgrounds. Affinity groups have presented a wide range of student events focusing on racism and wellness issues for students from marginalized communities, among many other subjects. In February 2021, Fordham Law’s Black Law Student Association was recognized by the National Black Law Students Association as Northeast Chapter of the Year.
Expand the Pipeline
Expand the Law School’s commitment to building the pipeline of diverse students matriculating at Fordham Law. Pursue this by enhancing and growing the Increasing Diversity in Education and the Law (IDEAL) program. IDEAL is focused on nurturing an interest in legal careers among college students and provides expedited consideration in the Law School’s admissions process. In January 2021, launched a new application for the IDEAL program. Promoting the program to Fordham undergraduates and students in the CUNY system is a main objective to extend opportunities to historically underrepresented students in New York City. Concurrently, we continue to nurture other partnerships that develop an interest in the legal profession for college, high school, and middle school students, such as the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), the Justice Resource Center, The Scales of Justice Academy, Mentor Moot Court, and Legal Outreach. Additionally, the Feerick Center for Social Justice has launched a new Civics Education and Pipeline to Law School Pilot Project, which will focus on programming in underserved communities. Law students will deliver lessons on constitutional rights to eighth-grade students in a Bronx middle school. In conjunction with these lessons, the law students will share their experience applying to and attending law school. Further, the Law School will host Youth Law Day this spring to invite diverse high school students to learn more about careers in the law.
Reexamine Recruitment and Admissions
Review and reform processes for recruiting and admitting students from underrepresented groups. For example, collaborating with BLSA, we are launching a new program through which current Fordham Law students will reach out to students from their undergraduate alma maters who may be prospective future law students. Additionally, we are strengthening our ties to minority-serving institutions. According to American Bar Association statistics (abarequireddisclosures.org), Black male enrollment in the first-year class at Fordham Law ranked fifth among all American law schools in 2020. Further, we actively participate in a number of law school admissions events focused on recruiting diverse applicants, including the National Black Pre-Law Conference.
Broaden the Diversity of Our Faculty
Recruit new faculty members who broaden the diversity of the faculty. Deepen our recruitment efforts to expand the candidate pool for further inclusivity of historically underrepresented individuals through outreach to diverse organizations and publications. Prioritize the mission of the Law School to welcome an array of faculty members who are well versed in areas that emphasize the intersectional nature of law.
Offer Mentorship and Guidance
Create a new pre-orientation program—REAL (Road to Excellence and the Law)—for incoming students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to help prepare them to become leaders in both the Law School community and the legal profession. REAL will launch in fall 2021.