PUBLISHED:March 01, 2021

Diversity & Inclusion Committee Update


The Law School's Diversity & Inclusion Committee provided an update on its activities during the fall 2020 semester.

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee was formed under the direction of Dean Abrams to advise, support, and supplement the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives of the Law School. In the summer of 2020, the D&I Committee formed a working group of students, faculty, staff and alumni to develop a Preliminary Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in coordination with Dean Abrams and her senior administration. This plan was shared with the Law School community in September 2020 and provided the framework with which the D&I Committee directed its work for the 2020-2021 academic year.  

The D&I Committee met weekly throughout the fall semester and remains actively engaged in the work of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion for not only students, but staff, faculty, and alumni. The following four working groups were formed in response to action items from the Preliminary Strategic Plan, concerns highlighted by students through various listening sessions, data compiled by various student groups, including BLSA and Duke Law Anti-Racism Project, and responses to the Duke Law Diversity and Inclusion Student Survey:

1. Student, Faculty, and Staff Data-Gathering

This working group has focused on facilitating conversations with students, staff, and faculty. This group will play a role in reporting out and diving deeper into the issues identified in respective survey(s) and in the development of recommendations regarding strategies moving forward. Additionally, this group will help identify short-term solutions to implement while we continue to work on the longer-term solutions for the Law School.

2. Student Discrimination and Alienation Support Systems

This working group assessed processes and identified best practices to create a better environment for supporting students who are experiencing alienation at the Law School, in particular alienation with regard to race, mental health status, political views, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This group also reviewed current systems for the reporting of instances of discrimination and adopted recommendations for best practices to enhance students’ experience in the classroom and experiences with faculty and staff.

3. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Values Communication Plan

This working group’s focus has been on articulating values around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Law School. The group will look at how to incorporate these values throughout the Duke Law community, including in student and staff orientation.

4. Assessment and Advisory of Law School DEI Initiatives

This working group is tasked with collaborating with and advising offices, centers, and departments throughout the Law School with action items outlined in the Law School’s Preliminary Strategic Plan on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The group will also review Duke and Duke Law trainings to identify additional training needs targeted specifically for Law students, faculty, and staff around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Some of the key action items completed by the D&I Committee during the first half of this academic year include:

  • Identified, interviewed, and hired diversity education consultants to host training sessions for staff, faculty, and students. Dr. Arin Reeves, a leading researcher, author, and advisor in the fields of leadership and inclusion, conducted a training seminar for staff and faculty in August 2020. John Simpkins '99, a constitutional law scholar and practicing attorney focused on advancing an equity agenda for women and people of color in the South, organized multiple student training sessions for first-year JD and LLM students.
  • Developed and administered a climate survey to canvass the experiences of current Duke Law students in September 2020. The survey conceived of diversity broadly so that the D&I Committee could better understand the views of the entire student body, including, but not limited to: race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ideological viewpoint, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and ability status. The D&I Committee will share the results of the student climate survey on the Law School’s updated diversity website in early spring 2021. Duke University conducted a faculty climate survey in fall 2020 and the D&I Committee plans to administer a climate survey for staff in spring 2021.
  • Solicited updates from the 28 offices, committees, and centers tasked with action items on the Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The D&I Committee will review and assess updates to provide guidance and support as necessary.
  • Gathered information on discrimination reporting processes, including meeting with administrators from Students Affairs, Academic Initiatives, and Diversity Initiatives and assessment of reporting structures at other comparable schools. Developed streamlined website content to highlight harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct policies, procedures, and reporting processes. The policies and procedures around reporting will be updated on the diversity website in early spring 2021.
  • Reviewed existing messaging around Duke Law’s values, including the Blueprint to LEAD, viewbook, mission statement, The Duke Way, etc. Explored strategies to communicate messaging around varying, and sometimes conflicting, principles in relation to interactions with Duke Law constituents (e.g. between student groups, classroom dialogue, recruiting employers). Assessing training opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, which incorporates Duke Law values messaging around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The D&I Committee remains committed to furthering the efforts of the Law School to build an inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. We will continue to work diligently throughout the spring semester to further program goals and expand upon the work we have started. We look forward to sharing the progress of the Law School’s diversity initiatives through an end-of-year report for the Duke Law community.