Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
At the UConn School of Law we strive to celebrate each member of our community. Although individuals identify along gender, race, ethnic, socio-political and religious lines, we are all members of the UConn Law community. Members of our community will find student organizations, affinity student groups, classes, clinics and community opportunities to welcome and support them, as well as safe space in the Student Affairs Office to discuss issues affecting identity, diversity and inclusion. Students are encouraged to talk with colleagues about how their perspectives shape them, how their privileges and disadvantages affect their views of a particular case, and how their personal journeys will influence the types of lawyers they will become. Each contribution builds the culture of the law school, and our individual narratives guide us in how we look at and learn the law.
Established in 2000 as Diversity Day and expanded in 2011 to Diversity Week and in 2020 to Diversity Month, the annual celebration showcases and strengthens the law school’s commitment to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Throughout March, there are a variety of events that encourage community members to take pause and appreciate how each member contributes to campus culture. The Diversity Alliance, which organizes the events, encourages students, faculty and staff to continue these conversations and embrace new perspectives throughout the year.
Student Affinity Groups
Since the Black Law Students Association was founded in 1969, more than a dozen more student affinity groups have flourished at the UConn School of Law. These organizations—based on national origin, heritage, gender identity, sexual orientation or first-generation college and law school status—offer support to their members as well as outreach, education and service to the law school and the community.
The UConn School of Law strives to represent a diversity of thought and perspective in its curriculum and to address the themes and issues important to marginalized communities. In addition to Critical Race Theory and Race and the American Legal System, the School of Law regularly offers such courses as Access to Justice, Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession, and Insurance and Discrimination.
Access and Opportunity
Creating meaningful access to and opportunity in the profession is a priority at the UConn School of Law. Scholarships and fellowships allow students without financial means to attend the school and participate in valuable legal experiences. UConn School of Law founded the Summer Law Institute in 2008 to bring Hartford Public High School students on campus for an introduction to the practice of law through a mock trial. The program, supported by Robinson & Cole LLP, graduated its first alumna of the program with a JD in 2018. The law school also hosts and participates in pipeline programs for middle school, high school and college students with the hope of increasing the pipeline to the legal profession. Programs include Envision Advocacy, spearheaded by the Moot Court Board; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Day in partnership with other New England law schools; and Pathways to the Legal Profession and LAW Camp with the Connecticut Bar Association.
Diversity, Equity and Belonging Committee
In 2021, Dean Eboni S. Nelson established the Diversity, Equity and Belonging Committee, composed of graduates, faculty members, staff members and students. She charged the committee with examining the state of diversity, equity and belonging at the UConn School of Law—to hold a mirror up to the school and suggest concrete ways to transform the community so that it can better embody these core values.
Access to Justice
The UConn School of Law strives to extend legal services to underserved individuals and communities through its clinics, pro bono program and legal incubator, and by instilling a commitment to service in its students. UConn’s clinics serve immigrants, low-income taxpayers, criminal defendants, fledgling entrepreneurs, veterans, children and the elderly. The incubator, known as the Connecticut Community Law Center. provides legal services at reasonable rates to low- and moderate-income residents. And the Pro Bono Pledge asks students to commit to providing free legal service to those in need. Together, these programs demonstrate to our students the importance of access to justice for all people.
The UConn School of Law must, like every institution, grapple with the presence of racism, bigotry and injustice in the present day, as well as its legacy from the past. In recent years, the law school has undertaken a more critical look at how the mistakes and misdeeds of the past have brought us to our present situation, and how the contributions of marginalized people have been overlooked. The creation of an inclusive Gallery of Pioneers and the publication of Still We Rise: African Americans at the University of Connecticut School of Law, have initiated a conversation that the law school is determined to continue and expand.