For Savala Trepczynski ’11, accepting the keys to the law school’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice was an easy decision. “Berkeley is a high-octane engine, and who doesn’t want to drive a Ferrari?” says the center’s new executive director.
An early priority: making sure students power that engine. “We welcome every student with an inclination that social justice matters,” says Trepczynski, who started in January.
In her two years as associate director of Wayne State University’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Trepczynski published its Journal of Law in Society, coordinated social justice programming, and helped secure significant funding. Previously, she was an associate at Keker & Van Nest and clerked for Judge Damon Keith on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
This year, the Henderson Center launched a specialized certificate program for students who complete a course of study focused on public interest and social justice. Last summer, the center provided funding for 11 students to attend the #Law4BlackLives gathering in New York City.
Convening students, professors, and practitioners, the center recently addressed Martin Luther King, Jr.’ s advocacy for affirmative action and reparations, the plight of precariously positioned workers in the new tech economy, capital punishment, and how the subminimum wage for tipped restaurant workers violates international human rights standards. In April, leading lawyers, activists, and scholars met with more than 80 Berkeley Law students to discuss how local, national, and international drug policies impact racial justice.
“Many social justice issues are coming to a boil around the world and right here in the Bay Area,” Trepczynski says. “Our relationship with students must be dynamic, because the center can’t operate without regard for what’s happening on the ground.”