Diversity in Law Banquet draws
record crowd, donations was a record-setting year for the Diversity in Law Banquet. More than 200 people attended the annual event that celebrates diversity at the University of Kansas School of Law and in the legal profession. Nineteen law firms, legal organizations and bar associations served as sponsors for the evening of cocktails, dinner, conversation and networking. All told, the March 6 festivities raised more than $6,300 for the school’s Diversity Scholarship Fund. “I was pleased with this year’s banquet turnout. It will go a long way toward supporting diversity in the classroom,” said Tracie Revis, president of the Native American Law Students Association, which hosted this year’s banquet. “More than anything, I was impressed by the support of all the student organizations, the faculty and staff, and the community. Diversity is not just color or gender; it’s the people who represent the diversity that make the difference. I think it exemplifies the type of impact that can be made when we all come together and support each other.” Keynote speaker Sarah Deer, L’99, a visiting professor at William Mitchell College of Law, attempted to gauge the pulse of the nation’s legal system on the issue of diversity. She highlighted two recent Supreme Court cases that deal with the question of whether diversity is a compelling state interest: Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007). She noted that the Grutter opinion, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and affirming the constitu-
tionality of race-conscious admissions standards, includes positive language about the inherent value of diversity. “Access to legal education (and thus the legal profession) must be inclusive of talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity, so that all members of our heterogeneous society may participate in the educational institutions that provide the training VIEW and education necessary a photo to succeed in America,” gallery O’Connor wrote. from the “Effective participaevent tion by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized.” O’Connor goes on to suggest, however, that the kind of admissions standards used at the University of Michigan School of Law to ensure a diverse student body won’t be necessary by the year 2028. “Is this because diversity is only important in certain time frames or until certain milestones are met?” Deer asked. “Because for me the inherent value of diversity is timeless.” The court’s ruling in the Seattle case, which deems unconstitutional a method of creating diversity in the public school system, does not specifically overturn the Grutter decision. But it does seem to indicate that the current court looks more skeptically at methodology used to achieve diversity, Deer said, and that it’s moving in a more “color blind” direction.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his concurring opinion, “The enduring hope is that race should not matter; the reality is that too often it does.” “But my question in thinking about that statement is: Is the hope really that race should not matter?” Deer asked. “Because if diversity is inherently a good thing that enhances education and makes the world a better place, then what good comes from neutralizing it?” Deer encouraged law students especially to study carefully the words of their leaders on the value of diversity and to define it for themselves in order to pursue it effectively. “I do believe that as the legal profession we have the capacity to promote and support diversity within the profession,” she said, “even if it’s not a law or official policy.” Deer, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, has accepted a tenuretrack position and will join the William Mitchell law faculty in the fall. She will be the seventh female law professor in the United States who is also a citizen of a federally recognized Indian tribe. Below: Jehan Kamil, L’05, left, and her date catch up with Shaye Downing, L’05, before the banquet.
KU LAW MAGAZINE 13
Published on May 4, 2009
Published on May 4, 2009
A magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Kansas School of Law. Story highlights include: Alumni spread legal roots in rural Ka...