Tuesday, September 28, 2010
While there is a relatively standard first-year curriculum at all ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S., no two classrooms are identical. This article examines how the race and gender of law school faculty affect both what is taught in the first year and how that material is taught. Using focus group data from a national, longitudinal, multi-method study of American law schools, this article reveals that faculty of color and female faculty are more likely to engage in “diversity discussions” -- discussions involving race and gender -- than their white male counterparts. While many students appreciate these discussions and mention numerous ways in which these conversations enhance their legal education, some prefer their exclusion. Additionally, a few professors are so insensitive to diversity issues that they may be creating a hostile learning environment for some students. The Conclusion offers implications and policy suggestions to improve learning outcomes for students, retention rates for both students and faculty, and faculty diversity generally.