Our Role in Dismantling Systemic Racism

Who We Are

Berkeley Law’s mission is to prepare responsible, effective, and visionary advocates who will serve the public’s needs through the practice of law, the formulation of public policy, contributions to legal scholarship, and in other spaces. To meet this charge, the J.D. Admissions and Financial Aid Office has a responsibility to engage, admit, recruit, and support future lawyers who will ultimately serve the legal needs of all members of society. Our Faculty Admissions Policy makes this quite clear, and our office is committed to fulfilling our law school’s mission. 

The Berkeley Law J.D. Admissions and Financial Aid Office:

  • Recognizes that one form of violence perpetrated against Black, Brown, Indigenous and other underrepresented people throughout history was and is the creation of systems and structures limiting access to higher education (including legal education), and particularly to affordable education.
  • Understands that in order to fulfill our commitment to the law school’s mission, our office must move beyond being non-racist and toward being anti-racist. We cannot ignore our role in upholding systemic racism.
  • Sees the recent and recurring murders of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in the United States and understands that these acts of violence are not isolated, but rather are a part of a long history of structural racism and anti-Blackness endemic in our society. 
  • Understands that our nation’s systems of racism and oppression were often legalized and codified within the very institutions that we are admitting students to study and preparing them  to enter. 
  • Acknowledges the trauma being experienced by current and prospective students, and other members of our community.
  • Explicitly affirms that Black Lives Matter. 
  • Feels distress at the growing inequality along racial, ethnic, and class lines in our home city of Berkeley and the greater Bay Area.
  • Is staffed by people from varied backgrounds who share a commitment to identifying and recruiting the next generation of leaders for social and racial justice, and who seek to listen, understand, and act. 

 

What We Do

Moving forward, the Berkeley Law J.D. Admissions and Financial Aid Office will continue to:

  • Challenge our own implicit and explicit biases, assumptions, and acceptances of institutionalized oppression. 
  • Maintain meaningful working partnerships with K-12 schools, two- and four-year colleges, pipeline programs, and community-based organizations that support legal education access and are committed to the success of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, students of color, and others underrepresented in the profession.
  • Evaluate our application forms and make changes that will improve the experience our applicants have with the process. This includes annual review of the Demographics section of the application, the Character and Fitness questions in the application, the Socioeconomic Questionnaire, the Citizenship and Residency section, the Supplemental Gift Aid Application, and others. We will engage with the Berkeley Law Equity and Inclusion Committee to address questions of policy as needed. 
  • Recognize that a candidate’s intersectional identity shapes powerful and positive contributions to the community, profession, and society, but that this is often not recognized by the “formal” measures of ability or potential.
  • Carefully evaluate our admissions and financial aid practices and policies to ensure that they appropriately and justly serve our applicants and current students. For example, analyze financial need considering historical socioeconomic obstacles faced by the student and not based solely on current personal or parental income and assets, and allow for appeals in situations where our forms and processes may not be adequately understanding financial need. 
  • Provide specialized resources and counseling to candidates frequently invisible-ized or marginalized by admission and financial aid systems, including undocumented candidates. 
  • Support graduates entering public service and social justice work through institutional loan repayment assistance. 
  • Partner with the Development and Alumni Relations office to build and support the case for the creating sustainable funding sources to decrease the overall net cost of attendance.
  • Engage internally and externally to make visible the benefits that the University of California, Berkeley has derived since formation as a land grant institution, and our ongoing obligation to the Indigenous Nations, communities, and peoples of this state and region on whose unceded homelands we live and work.
  • Support students who are protesting instances and systems of oppression, including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and others. 
  • Work with peers and others to support collective efforts in our profession that can move us toward anti-racist, equitable, and accessible law school admissions and financial aid offices.

 

What We Must Do Better

We know we must take further action. In addition to the above, we will do the following: 

  • Educate ourselves as individuals and as a team on systemic racism and anti-racism work by engaging with common readings and in discussion. In keeping with the recommendations of the AALS Dean’s Antiracist Clearinghouse, we will look for and incorporate resources that explore the contemporary realities, talents, and creative futures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples, including in the arts, music, and literature. Possible topics include:
    • Racism in the criminal justice system, and the movement to include justice-impacted individuals in law school and the legal profession.
    • The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada and the U.S.
    • The legal history and social impact of affirmative action.
    • Empirical research on trends and patterns in student indebtedness that suggest Black, Hispanic, and Latinx students (especially Black, Hispanic, and Latinx women) carry the highest student debt burdens.
    • The impact of, and steps toward countering, implicit bias. 
    • The interpersonal and institutional violence experienced by trans people, trans women, and trans women of color in particular. 

Areas of reading and discussion will be generated by our staff so that we are able to bring our whole selves into the office and the work, but we welcome suggestions from the broader community including students, faculty, and staff. We will also each identify and share two to three ideas for trainings and other programs, and commit professional development dollars to participation in these programs and/or events.

    • Formalize our existing practices to better articulate our office’s longstanding commitment to assisting underrepresented candidates for law school regardless of their interest in Berkeley Law, and to offer resources that expand access to legal education broadly. We will develop programs and resources to ensure students, especially Black, Brown, Indigenous, persons of color, and other underrepresented candidates are empowered with the information needed to access a legal education at Berkeley Law, or another law school. Specifically:
      • We will launch a free, all-virtual, modular pre-law pipeline course in 2021 utilizing the grant funds we applied for and received from AccessLex.
      • We will host webinars and information sessions that are not focused on gaining admission to Berkeley Law, but provide encouragement to those considering a legal career, and resources necessary to be successful in the admissions process. 
      • We will create specific office hours or appointment blocks for groups such as justice-impacted individuals, first-generation college graduates, and others (in addition to our general office hours and appointments).
    • Identify possible partners who are committed to helping Black, Brown, Indigenous, and persons of color and other underrepresented candidates get to and through law school and begin to build relationships with those entities. In the J.D. Admissions Office, each staff member commits to reaching out to six to ten new schools, groups, or organizations this cycle in order to explore new partnerships.
    • Recognize that while it is part of our job to attract and recruit Black, Brown, Indigenous, and persons of color to Berkeley Law while following all applicable state and federal laws, we would not be able to fulfill our responsibilities to the extent that we have been able (and would like) to without the assistance of current students and alumni of the law school. Further, that this burden is felt acutely by law students from groups traditionally underrepresented at our school and in the legal profession. We will work to reconcile these two truths in the near-term by:
      • Exploring ways to support student organizations and their membership more concretely in their recruitment efforts.
      • Actively listening to the feedback from student organizations and their membership about their experiences as both an admitted and current student. 
      • Creating and formalizing new positions within the J.D. Admissions office to consistently assist with our efforts in these areas.
    • Support efforts by students and others to ensure that the law school’s curriculum and programming is serving the needs of our students, and advocate for changes needed to ensure that reality is reflective of the messages we share about the Berkeley Law community.
    • Begin work to build better financial literacy programs, and to tailor our general messages and advising to particular groups of students who may have more specific needs, concerns, or questions that do not lend themselves to being adequately addressed in a larger group setting.
    • Work with the Development and Alumni Relations department to explore creative approaches to financially supporting Black, Brown, and Indigenous students such as establishing MOUs with tribal Nations and partnering with HBCUs.   
    • Overhaul and improve our website and communications, applying an anti-racist lens in addition to a focus on accessibility, transparency, and equity for all candidates.
    • Include in our ongoing, comprehensive review of our Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) the explicit question as to whether it  is successful at serving Black, Brown, and Indigenous public interest students. We will analyze how many students of color start law school intending to enter public interest or public service work and compare this to how many utilize our LRAP. We will work to identify and propose possible LRAP changes that will make public interest and public service work more accessible for students of color and other underrepresented groups.
    • Work to develop a clear vision for an anti-racist law school admissions and financial aid office, articulate and share that vision with others, and work towards its realization and operationalization. We will express our vision for building an anti-racist community to everyone involved with outreach and recruitment, beyond the strict bounds of the J.D. Admissions and Financial Aid Office. This includes but is not limited to sharing this statement on the J.D. Admissions and Financial Aid website, and speaking or writing about this vision and project to the law school community and elsewhere. 
    • Continue raising awareness and building relationships with colleagues at peer law schools and the LSAC. We will work with the LSAC to collectively advocate for greater and more affordable access to legal education. We will also share Berkeley Law’s statement with law admissions colleagues, as well as the learnings it generates.
    • Make ourselves visible and accountable by being explicit in our goals and reporting out on our progress.

Throughout all of this, we will continue to adhere to the requirements of all applicable state and federal laws, the California State and U.S. Constitution, and the policies of the University of California system, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Berkeley Law faculty admissions policy. An applicant’s race and ethnicity are not displayed in their materials for review, nor are race and ethnicity among the factors considered when determining admission to Berkeley Law or awarding financial aid. More information about this and our non-discrimination policies can be found here.

Reimagining our process will take time, but we are committed to this work. Thank you in advance for holding us accountable.

In Solidarity and Partnership,

The Berkeley Law Office of Admissions and Financial Aid

Notes:

  • This is a living document, and will be updated on a regular basis.
  • Last revision: September 16, 2020
  • Inspiration for this statement was drawn from the Trinity College statement, “Working to Dismantle Systemic Racism.”

 

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