Spring Courses Bring Racial Justice Into Focus

Seema Patel

In any given semester, Berkeley Law’s course roster is stocked with classes that reflect the school’s commitment to its public mission. On the heels of a turbulent 2020 — when the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated a host of inequalities and the movement toward racial justice took on a new fervor — this spring’s lineup is especially loaded with timely offerings. 

Professors Ian Haney Lopez and Asad Rahim are teaching Race and American Law, which examines canonical race cases and how race has evolved since the civil rights era, and probes the interplay of racism with other social hierarchies, especially gender and class. Professor Victoria Plaut is tackling the concepts of race and culture and various approaches to diversity found in the law in Psychology of Diversity and Discrimination in American Law. Other courses include Critical Race Theory, Crimmigration, and Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination Law. 

Several of the spring courses are new sections of special mini courses for first-year students last fall, including Movement Lawyering from the Inside Out, taught by Seema Patel, the clinical director for the East Bay Community Law Center, and Savala Trepczynski, the executive director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky proposed the slate of small 1L courses so participating students — about 10 in each class — can get to know one another and the professor. Berkeley Law’s faculty immediately stepped up to the challenge. 

“I was thrilled at the enthusiastic response from our faculty, and I’m delighted at the rich array of topics and classes for the 1Ls to choose from,” Chemerinsky says.

He’s teaching his small course, Civil Liberties in a Pandemic, a second time, along with Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon. This time, it’s open to second- and third-year students, too.