“By welcoming such a large class of Black students, Boston College Law School has demonstrated that Black education, issues, and lives matter. We are not token students, but rather our voices and experiences are welcomed and sought after by the Law School. This new class of future Black lawyers will enrich our community as a school and as a profession.”John-Henry Marley, BC Law Class of 2021
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has dominated conversations in almost every institution in the United States over the past few years. Whether sparked by the cultural backlash to President Obama’s election, or the rise of Black Lives Matter movement, or perhaps simply an overall reckoning of the need to repair past discriminatory harm, many schools and workplaces have adopted DEI into their core values and strategic plans. Unfortunately, that’s usually where the conversation ends. DEI goals often stay just that: goals without action or results.
BC Law is different. Here, DEI is not merely a tagline to fit into a trendy movement, but rather a commitment to ensuring an “inclusive community, where people from all backgrounds are celebrated for their unique perspectives and lived experiences.”
Boston College Law School is committed to DEI, and it shows. BC Law has broken the frustrating mold of lip service to diversity by demonstrating what DEI looks like, which starts with a diverse student body. This year, BC Law admitted its most diverse class of all time. Most notably, 40 Black students joined the community, which is an increase from 16 just a year ago. This progress must be celebrated while we strive to continue breaking down barriers in legal education.
First-year student Lloyd Hancock recognizes the importance of this great achievement and is proud to be part of the change. Hancock said: “The increase in Black 1L students at BC Law is as historic as it is encouraging. It is a realization of the strides the alumni organizations have taken to bolster a single digit enrollment number to now 40. For me personally, it has helped to create a welcoming environment that will foster my success here.” First-year student Sydney Tresvant added that the larger community makes her “feel more comfortable, protected, and visible within the law school community, while also feeling supported and liberated to pursue my professional goals.”
For a long time, BC Law’s Black Alumni Network (BAN) has advocated for the increase in the number of Black students and is a critical component of the welcoming environment. As James Jones, President of BAN, said: “BAN, its board, former board members, and general membership are thrilled at the dramatic increase in numbers of Black students attending BC Law in this current 1L class. This has been part of the mission of BAN since its inception and we are glad to see the efforts of our work and advocacy, among others of course, coming to fruition. This has been a long time coming and our new focus is on making sure the school maintains this as its status quo and not a single year anomaly.”
Admittedly, BC Law recognizes that numbers alone are insufficient to fulfill the goals of inclusion within our community. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director Lisa Brathwaite explained: “the diversity of our 1L class is due to a number of factors, including focused leadership around diversity, fostering a more inclusive community through tailored programming, and the strategic execution of our admissions and financial aid process. This is a community effort, and we are not at the finish line but rather at a new beginning as we seek to improve the experience for all students with the necessary tools and support for them to thrive.”
Vannessa Lawrence, third-year law student and past co-president of BC’s Black Law Student Association, has engaged in conversations surrounding the need to increase diversity among the student body. She says the increased number of Black students on campus brings both hope and a renewed purpose. Lawrence says she will continue “to advocate for change because of how powerful and meaningful it is for communities of color to have these connections, both at the law school level and for the broader legal community.”
Dean of Admissions Shawn McShay is proud of this achievement and affirmed BC Law’s commitment to being a leader in DEI. He said: “BC Law thrives because our students thrive, and we are so excited to welcome one of the most diverse classes ever to continue that legacy. This achievement comes at such a critical time in our nation and specifically our community, where our purpose is to educate, guide, and support future leaders and agents of change. It took a village to get here and I am so proud of the support of our alumni, current students, faculty, and staff who have invested their time and resources to make this partnership a reality.”
Although much more progress is necessary, for this very brief moment, we should take the time to celebrate our BC Law community for its commitment to increased diversity and honor all of the alumni, administrators, faculty, and students who paved the way for each and every one of us here at BC Law. To all of you trailblazers, we say thank you!
Travis Salters is a second-year student and Vice-President of the Impact blog. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.