Dear CUNY Law community,
Welcome to the 2023-24 academic year! A new academic year brings with it a tremendous amount of energy and optimism, and I hope you all feel that as we come together this fall. After a summer of planning and preparation led by our Admissions team, Orientation started on August 10—I thank everyone involved in that effort, as I enjoyed welcoming over 220 new 1Ls. And it has been terrific to see returning 2Ls, 3Ls, and 4Ls this week, hearing about summer internships, courses for the fall semester, and more.
During my first year as dean of CUNY Law, I spent a lot of time listening to the interests and priorities of community members, observing and learning about the way the law school has been operating, and connecting with many folks to better understand how I can serve the law school during my tenure as dean. Thank you to each and every person who joined me in that endeavor. I look forward to the coming year, as we continue to move forward with our mission of law in service of human needs.
The core of what we do is excellent teaching and learning in our classrooms, clinics, simulations, and elsewhere. We celebrate our faculty’s teaching, legal scholarship, and advocacy; our students, whose passion, intellect, and experience shape discourse in our classrooms and beyond; and our staff, who dedicate expertise and often extra time to help advance our mission.
In this community letter, I’m sharing some of the other great work from the 2022-23 academic year. As busy people, we often find ourselves focused on day-to-day obligations, which can make us lose sight of all that we’ve accomplished. Early this summer, I asked leaders of different areas in the law school to share things that they and their colleagues did that were not necessarily part of their everyday work, but that stood out in the last year. I received over 15 pages of reflections on that hard work and dedication. Below, I’m sharing just a small slice of that work.
During the 2022-23 academic year, we:
- Brought in the most racially diverse class of 1Ls in the history of the law school, which is part of the reason CUNY Law was ranked by preLaw Magazine in early 2023 as the most racially diverse law school in the nation (we are proud to note that our incoming 1L class in Fall 2023 is even more racially diverse)
- Re-established the W. Haywood Burns Chair in Human and Civil Rights, and welcomed Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as the 2023 Burns Chair
- Welcomed a new dean, new interim leaders in various divisions, five new full-time faculty members, our first full-time Chief Diversity Officer, and over a dozen new staff colleagues
- Hired leaders and staff members for the nascent Institute on Gender, Law, and Transformative Peace, including Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee
- Transitioned back into almost fully in-person classes, programs, and work at the law school, a huge undertaking by staff and faculty after moving into a fully remote mode in March 2020
- Through the Dean’s Transition Team and dozens of individual and group meetings, listened and learned about community priorities at a time of transition, including the building and sustaining of an inclusive, welcoming community
- Advanced our commitment to racial justice through programming and courses, as well as our leadership in the Law School Anti-Racist Coalition
- Opened a state-of-the-art Trial Courtroom to benefit our students and the surrounding community
- Launched the pathbreaking First Impressions Youth Legal Collaborative, designed to be a model for youth civics engagement programs across the state of New York
- Secured four new faculty lines, funding for campus climate programming (DEI training, and programs addressing anti-LGBTQIA+ bias and violence, antisemitism, and anti-Asian violence), and funding for a faculty career success fellow through CUNY’s grant-making process
- Improved departmental information-sharing through monthly meetings, wrote and updated a number of governance policies in need of attending, and made real progress on updating and improving various internal systems
- Through the Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice, expanded our work in service to LGBTQIA+ populations and in voting rights
- Began forming an official CUNY Law Archive
- Provided no-cost legal services through dozens of CUNY Law alumni to over 1,600 New Yorkers through the Community Legal Resource Network
- Hired a large cohort of new tenure-track professors to start in Fall 2023
- Published the course schedule for the next full academic year in the spring before—the first time that CUNY Law has ever done so—enabling students and faculty to plan ahead
- Kicked off a strategic planning process, the first one for the law school in nearly a decade
- Hosted 50 Black male academics at the 14th annual John Mercer Langston Black Male Faculty Writing Workshop
- Sustained our new no-cost bar preparation program for all graduating students
- Sent a far higher percentage of our recent graduates into public interest and social justice lawyering jobs than any other law school in the nation
And that just scratches the surface of all that we did in the last year!
As many of you know, this month marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of CUNY Law School in 1983, and we plan on spending the rest of 2023 and all of 2024 celebrating. Together, we will reflect on all that we have accomplished over the past four decades; our commitment to diversifying legal education and the legal profession; our commitment to educating and training thoughtful, ethical, passionate, and compassionate social justice lawyers; and our future as a community of learners, activists, thinkers, and advocates. I look forward to our collaborating on these and other efforts to build, sustain, and lift the law school and each member of our community. Thank you for all that you bring to this endeavor.
Dean and Professor of Law