A global pandemic, disrupted economies, and the run-up to a presidential election were all front and center in Spring and Summer of 2020. Yet when unarmed George Floyd was killed by police in May 2020, protests against police brutality and racism began in Minneapolis and spread around the world.
The University of Iowa, UI College of Law, and Iowa Law School Foundation each released respective official statements supporting protests and denouncing racism. The College of Law moved to action and formed an Anti-Racism Action Committee made up of faculty, staff and students. Dean Washburn charged the Committee to report back by the end of August.
“Following the death of George Floyd and amongst the extensive historical backdrop of police brutality among communities of color, we understood that it was time to do more and address racism in the College of Law,” said Committee member Meddie Demmings IV, “The College of Law recognized this, too, and gave us the green light to meet, talk, and submit this report.”
The Committee met for the first time on June 19, 2020, and met weekly through the rest of the summer, submitting its final report on August 21, 2020. When sharing the report with the Iowa Law community, Dean Washburn noted, “Under the energetic leadership of Dean Wing, the Committee worked very hard all summer to think of myriad ways to make us a better law school and to collect ideas and curate them for us. Their recommendations will help Iowa Law meet this important historical moment.”
Dean Washburn went on to say, “The report outlines a bold plan of recommended actions. One of the recommendations, the identification of a Director of DEI and Global Engagement, has already happened with the hiring of Neda Barrett, and she will help keep us on task in implementing other initiatives. We will be implementing as many of these ideas as we can soon, and seeking to raise funds to do more. We will report as other anti-racism actions are accomplished.”
According to Anti-Racism Action Committee Chair and Associate Dean Adrien Wing, “It was important for students, faculty and staff of the College of Law to be part of the Committee, because the impacts of racism are felt differently by all members of the law school. We also had input from several alumni who were very interested in these issues.” When the Committee started meeting, their first goal was articulating their mission – what they hoped to achieve and how they thought they might be able to accomplish that. The Committee finalized their work with a report that includes recommendations in the following areas: funding, leadership, recruitment, curriculum, training, climate reform, placement and evaluation
Looking forward, the Committee readily acknowledged that their upcoming report will not eradicate racism overnight. Instead, members hope that the Committee functions as a springboard for future awareness, action, and solution.