Law School After Charlottesville

I have felt disturbed and distracted for a week now, since I became aware of the white supremacist gatherings at UVA and in Charlottesville. I was so proud of Emory President Claire Sterk’s ringing rejection of any such ideology:

Message from Emory President Claire E. Sterk:

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, serve as a stark reminder that although we have made tremendous advances in civil and human rights, we have work to do. We are fortunate to live in Atlanta: the heart of the civil rights movement. With great privilege comes responsibility. Now is the time for speaking the truth.

Emory’s core values call us to be champions of equality, inclusion, and the pursuit of knowledge. I stand committed to our values and am proud that Emory strives to be a place where people can hold difficult conversations respectfully. But let me be clear: supremacist groups are not engaged in the difficult work of informed civil discourse. Theirs is a different project. These groups seek to undermine the fabric of civil society through ignorance, fear, and violence. Their actions stand in contrast to everything we strive for as members of an academic community committed to the discovery and application of knowledge for the greater good.

I believe that education still matters. I believe that the liberal arts, the sciences, and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake still form the foundation of civil discourse in this society. Supremacist ideology does not, and will not, have a seat at Emory University’s table.

As President of Emory University, I am proud of the courage shown by those who stand for our shared values.

What more is there to say? She said it so well, and this blog is for discussions of bar readiness and academic support, not politics (and I am not inviting comments).

The emotions churned up by the weekend’s shameful events understandably consume attention, energy and focus among our students, as discussed here: Law School Academic Support Blog. But one student’s reaction restored some of my own energy. The keynote speaker at our Welcome Week program was Aloke Chakravarty 97L, who successfully prosecuted the surviving bomber of the Boston Marathon. Both he and Dean Jud Graves 75L highlighted the recent crisis in Charlottesville in their remarks to all new students in our auditorium, noting that the rule of law, and the social contract to accept and abide by the rule of law, is what stands between the peace-loving majority and the few who would violently impose their points of view. As each of them said, the “rule of law” is much more than just words, and the people who bring law to life are lawyers. An international student who has studied law in his home country told me later that he knew at that moment why he wants an American law degree and what he wants to do with it.

So all of us in legal education must recommit ourselves to helping our students become the very best, the most enlightened, the bravest lawyers they can be, in defense of the rule of law. We can’t be distracted. We must help them keep their eyes on the prize.