On April 10, the BC Law Black Alumni Network (BAN) and the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) held their annual Ruth-Arlene Howe Heritage Banquet. As BLSA incoming co-presidents, KP and I addressed the attendees. Our speeches are reproduced below.
Thank you so much for the honor of serving as incoming co-president alongside KP, and our entire BLSA executive team, for this upcoming year. Personally, I am eager and excited to building stronger relationships with every BLSA member and supporter, as I’ve had the unfortunate circumstance of studying fully remotely this past year. But even more so, I look forward to continuing the legacy and momentum of past BLSA leadership.
As cliché as it sounds, it is hard to imagine life beyond or before Covid-19. As the world begins to tip-toe back to normal, many find it hard to imagine what this new “normal” will even look like. Some, myself included, find it difficult to even begin to picture what a post-pandemic world will be, as social distancing and isolation have completely taken over in the past year.
Although the pandemic that has forced us apart from one another in so many ways, in other ways it has brought our community closer than ever before. Take BC Law’s Food Pantry Effort, for example, a working group that has helped organize the donations of hundreds of pounds of food to local organizations.
We spoke with student leader Andrew Fishman about the work of the group and how he hopes to impact the surrounding community.
Tell me a little bit about how this working group got its start.
What is the role of faith in our democracy? For starters, freedom of religion is the first right enshrined in the First Amendment. While amendments are not listed in order of importance, it’s hard not to read something into that drafting choice. Yet constitutional meanings frequently play hide-and-go-seek with text. This is especially the case for religion, which is never defined in the Constitution.
Maybe the Founders’ generation assumed the meaning was self-evident. I would hope, however, that they knew there is little that is obvious or uncontested in religion. The etymology of the word itself suggests how difficult it is to define. Religion comes from the Latin term religio. The Latin phrase itself likely came from the root ligare, to bind. Joined with the prefix re-, religion is the process of “binding together again.”
The question is: what does religion bind together? Some believe it bound an individual to the discipline of moral discernment. It referred to epistemic responsibility, the responsibility to properly know what you know. A related but distinct interpretation was that it referred to the oaths taken by members of cults or religious orders. It emphasized the practical, ritual, and ecclesial dimensions of religious life. Over time, as religion started to assume more individualistic and mystical associations, the root was understood as referring to the re-connection between the human and the divine.
The following is a reflection based on my experience observing a Zoom hearing in housing court. Attending this hearing was part of an assignment for my clinic, the COVID-19 Relief Housing Clinic. The case I observed is not that of a client of our firm, but simply that of a litigant who virtually appeared in Zoom court that morning.
When I watch courtroom scenes on television and in movies, I am captivated by the persuasive oration, surprise evidence, and yes, the juicy drama. Superficially, attending a status hearing in Housing Court via Zoom was not so different from watching a televised courtroom experience. After all, I opened up my laptop and sat down at my desk to watch the scenes unfold through my screen. But the experience was nothing like watching a media portrayal of a courtroom drama. Because this wasn’t Netflix, and the spectacle wasn’t written with the sole function of my entertainment. That morning, I left feeling the opposite of entertained. It’s a lot less fun when the characters aren’t just reciting their scripts on a stage. It’s hard to find enjoyment in the unfolding of real problems of real people, especially when you can sense that there may not be a happy ending.
In my eyes, the protagonist of today’s narrative was the defendant tenant (let’s call her J), setting forth her case for numerous civil damages against her landlord, C. Particularly, she was experiencing various issues with heat, both in a bedroom and with her oven. This made me remember my own apartment last winter, when the heat was stuck at 64 degrees for less than a day. I was angry, less so because the cold was intolerable, and more so because I feel I have an entrenched right to this utility at all times.
J was situated in her apartment, wearing what looked like a bathrobe. She had attended the hearing after getting three hours of sleep after her overnight shift at work. She looked stressed and overwhelmed. It was like the frustration I feel when I have to stay up late for RA duty, but still have an 8 am class the next day.
As elections approach for student organizations, I want to make a pitch to 1Ls who are on the fence about whether they can make a commitment to a student organization on top of the normal commitments of law school.
1Ls, this year has no doubt been challenging and strange. While 2Ls were able to spend half of our first year just popping into events to take food and spend time with friends, 1Ls need to make a much more concerted effort to join Zoom events to network, listen to speakers, or even socialize. That’s taxing. I understand and it makes sense why your affinity for student groups might be less than ours was.
Lots of discussion lately about rankings. How important are they, really? For better or worse, most students (and alumni, for that matter) pay attention to where their school falls in the US News & World Report annual list.
The latest US News Best Law Schools ranking was released this week, and BC Law moved up two spots to #29, improving its overall score from 63 to 67. Yay! BC also moved up in a few specialty categories: Tax (#14), Clinical Training (#24) and Environmental Law (#24).
There was more controversy than usual this year, with US News initially releasing a new diversity ranking and then recalculating it and then pulling it off their site entirely. Further, they had to recalculate their overall ranking just a day before it was released, removing a metric on librarian’s “ratio of credit hours of instruction.” Apparently there was more than the usual tinkering with the methodology this year, adding some new measurements of average debt, and reworking how library resources are measured.
Maybe it’s just me, but they don’t seem to have hit a home run with all these changes. So does this mark the beginning of the end for US News rankings dominance? Probably not, but stay tuned.
Read more about the ranking in the BC Law Magazine story.
Devon Sanders is a second-year student, and vice president of the Impact blog. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I find it almost impossible not to acknowledge the recent attacks on the Asian American community. The same way I desire every conscious soul to affirm that Black lives matter- I must also affirm that the life of each Sister and Brother in every beautiful culture within the Asian American community matters.
Vulnerable conversations are powerful because it forces us to acknowledge our deficits and choose our mode of liability. That is, we can choose to ignore our own complicity in a system that breeds hatred and systemically condones discrimination, or we can actively work to dismantle this evil. I’m afraid that far too many people in our society, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps even myself, have fallen into the former.
Dr. King forcefully condemned this passivity in a Letter from Birmingham Jail when he blamed the stagnated progress of civil rights on White moderates, who were more devoted to a “negative peace in the absence of tension” than a “positive peace in the presence of justice.” Although his purpose, at the time, was to rally around the agitating methods of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s rhetoric echoes today as a condemnation of complicit silence.
Where are you, CNN?
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy
I am traumatized by your apathy
(Excerpt from Not Your Model Minority)