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July 21, 2021

New committee addresses equity, diversity and inclusion concerns in legal education

Faculty of Law committee made up of faculty, students and staff

Aspiring lawyers are taught the importance of being fair and just in their work, of helping clients in whatever way possible. Last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the activism of Calgary’s Black Law Students Association sparked the Faculty of Law to carefully examine the inequalities intensified by the pandemic. In doing so, they saw a need to improve equity, diversity and inclusion efforts at the law school.  

The faculty’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, which began its work in fall 2020, is a collaboration between students, faculty and staff focused on addressing ongoing EDI concerns and driving change on important EDI issues in legal education and the profession.

The committee developed a mandate which includes training for faculty, staff and students in anti-racism and anti-oppression, requiring that faculty policies and governance issues are reviewed through an EDI lens, and supporting legal researchers and instructors to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion components in their work. In addition, the committee functions as a support for members of the law school community who may be subject to discrimination, harassment or inequality.  

Faculty EDI Leads Group

Professor Jennifer Koshan is the chair of the committee and is working with EDI committees from across campus as well as UCalgary’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The Faculty EDI Leads Group shares information and resources about initiatives within their faculties and units, reviews university level initiatives through an EDI lens (such as Growth Through Focus), and overall seeks to ensure the university community promotes and supports a culture of equity, diversity, inclusion and respect.  

Koshan also organized a roundtable on EDI issues at the recent Canadian Association of Law Teachers annual meeting, which led to the development of a cross-Canada group that will continue to share challenges and best practices about their work in this space.  

I am honoured to be part of the critical work on equity, diversity and inclusion issues that is happening at the faculty, university and cross-university levels. There are different challenges that arise at these different levels and I believe we can best address them by sharing experiences and ideas in multiple forums.

Since its inception, the Faculty of Law EDI Committee has made progress on several action items while working towards others. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the Faculty of Law saw several initiatives launched to support equity, diversity and inclusion at the law school, including a new admissions process and scholarships for Black students, a new vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion within the Society of Law Students (to be elected in Fall 2021), participation on the hiring committees for new faculty and staff positions, and hiring a student research assistant to help move the work of the EDI and Indigenous Strategy Committees forward. 

Helping to move the work forward

The committee also organized and lent its support for a number of EDI-related webinars, virtual events and workshops over the year, and held a research and blog-a-thon showcasing student commitment to issues including regulation of hate speech and systemic racism and transphobia in the justice system. 

“It’s very inspiring to see the dedication and commitment of our students and colleagues to improving diversity, inclusion and equity in the law school. We have also begun engagement with the law society and look forward to working with them on issues concerning the legal profession as a whole," says Koshan.