On Tuesday I received an event email from a bar association I was once a member of. The event was to serve as a forum for the deans from six local law schools. The next day, on International Women’s Day, I received an email from SALT seeking support for the ‘Full Citizenship Project for Law Faculty’ launched by the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD). Both emails caught my attention, for similar reasons. The first pictured a set of six male law school deans, and I was keenly aware, on many different levels, of the differences between me and them. The second email was a call to action directed at a group that I am a part of. As a woman, I didn’t see myself reflected in the bar association dean email. As a visiting clinical professor, I also do not belong to the predominantly male group of tenure track faculty.
Although the Full Citizenship Statement that is seeking signatures does not exclusively affect women, it could bridge one of the many disparities that exist among primarily tenured doctrinal faculty and legal writing, clinical and academic support faculty. The statement states that full citizenship is “…necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.”
How law students benefit from different perspectives may seem obvious to some and debatable to others. When a law school does distinguish between faculty, it communicates to students who, and what, the law school values as important. Titles, voting rights and salaries (which public institutions often make public information) make the hierarchy even more obvious. First and foremost, as a full time teacher at a law school, our mission is (or should be) to teach students how to be the people and lawyers we want to see out in the world post-graduation. Whether that mission is accomplished through legal writing, clinical experience or doctrinal classes, shouldn’t make a difference.
But I wonder if, because I am a woman and in a visiting position, does my opinion count as much as those the petition is seeking parity with? How much should we be actively seeking out those already in tenured positions versus preaching to, and seeking support from, the choir?
My own imposter syndrome voice sneaking up on me tells me I have no place writing this blog, and I try to silence her. I have been teaching for less than two years and I admittedly know less than many of my colleagues about this issue. But I believe my voice, as well as others who are new to the field, and those who have been in the trenches and already received tenure, are all important voices in the conversation.
I hope that conversations surrounding this Full Citizenship Statement take place in law school faculty meetings around the country where the very people this petition impacts, may very well be absent. I wonder if the conversations that may take place will reflect an instinctual resistance to adopt a structure that seemingly threatens to decrease one’s own power, pay or voice, or if there will be support. Just as it is vital for men and boys to be an active part of the conversation on gender and gender disparities, so too must those who are already in the privileged position of tenured faculty be an active part of the conversation around this petition.
We may struggle as teachers in how to address privilege in the clinical classroom. It is not an easy topic, notably when we have to take it out of the context of the classroom and apply it to our own lives and careers. It forces us to accept that we may have benefited from the advantage that race, sexual orientation, academic pedigree or economic upbringing may have offered. But privilege also offers the advantage of a platform and a voice, and in a movement like this, that is important. The call for equity can lessen the gap by knocking down boundaries created by arbitrary distinctions between those that meet the current qualifications for tenure track positions and those that do not. Talking about hierarchy, politics, power and pay can be incredibly uncomfortable when dissecting it within the institutional hierarchies we exist in. But now, it is necessary.
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