12 thoughts on “CityViews: CUNY Law School Needs to Confront its Race Problem

  1. Thank you. While I know “Plessy”, I’m old enough to have read Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Nothing has really changed.

  2. The problem may be one of legal education vs. CUNY’s race problem…Legal education is
    focused on analysis of cases and on general principles sufficient to pass the Bar examination.
    One cannot really do much good in social justice policy w/o these basic underpinnings. I’m
    a graduate of Rutgers Law School, which has been a leader in affirmative policies and in
    civil rights while also producing highly-qualified lawyers ( like Elizabeth Warren, for ex.)–
    yet a high percentage of Rutgers students from disadvantaged backgrounds failed their Bar exams. at the time I attended ( don’t know nos. currently). So,
    I think legal rigor in the classroom (vs emphases on racism or social policy) is needed to assure
    that CUNY Law students may act effectively in future and have the necessary background to do so,,,

  3. Thank you for this research on the disparity of funding white students and students of color. I witnessed this as a CUNY law student and was really frustrated about it. This should be explicitly addressed and corrected now. I think law school classes can and should develop a critical race theory track to complement doctrine. Other schools do it. There’s no reason to keep marginalized students from adding to this dialogue and scholarship. Lastly, I don’t think law school classes have much to do with passing the bar. I got bad grades in law school and passed the bar first time. I do think that fatigue and frustration from experiencing racism at school does disadvantage some students from effectively studying and preparing for the bar.

  4. The criminal law professor referred to above, in comparing battered woman syndrome and people v. Goetz was merely explaining the similarities in the legal arguments to explain how the case came out the way it did. You are at law school to learn the law, so learn it. To not understand how the otherside thinks and to reduce everything to “racism” is not only stupid, but its a cop out that only works within the confines of CUNY law. When you graduate law school you will have to make *gasp* legal arguments. So lets focus on that instead of making the argument that Professor Robson, a brilliant con law professor, isnt acknowledging that racism existed in the time of Plessy v. Ferguson. Heres some advice : toughen and pay attention so you can match fire with fire when some prosecutor comes at you with a for real legal argument. Or just keep crying like infants. Its a big bad world out there, the powers that be do not give a f– about your feelings. Lets act accordingly.

  5. I suspect what actually happened was professor Robson was trying to teach new law students the legal reasoning of the Plessy decision instead of letting it devolve into a race consciousness raising feels-fest on the 1L’s classes’ 3rd day of law school. The majority of LEDP is spent on race and equal protection but, no, Robson doesn’t let the 150 student sized class become a race and gender studies sociology course because this is law school, you need to learn how to correctly interpret the law, and that wont happen if you let 1Ls go on tangents. There are 15 person seminar style classes that are more conducive to that kind of discussion but, again, this is *law* school.

    CUNY has its problems with race. High drop out rates, low bar passage rates and professors confusing students of color just to name a few. But as someone several years out of CUNY and into practice I have to tell you the legal profession is way less nice, way less aware and way more racist, sexist and homophobic at its very best than CUNY ever was at its worst. You simply *have* to toughen up.

  6. CUNY law student here who attended both classes mentioned. This is complete misrepresentation of what happened. Robson (con law) is an amazing teacher. To make her out to being insensitive to racial aspects of the historical case is just ridiculous.
    David Nadvotney is an amazing teacher. He did not ignore the upset student in that class. On the contrary–he gave her much more attention than she deserved and showed immense compassion while trying to make an important legal-education point.

    I understand the anger and passion which many CUNY students who do agree with this post feel. I feel it too. But you’re shooting yourself in the foot not only educationally–this is counter productive as a world view. You are sowing division amongst your own ranks. You are making enemies of those who are your closest allies. You are weakening your cause. You are not fighting racism in America. You are perpetuating it.

    I’m sure the students who wrote this think that it exemplifies the compassion and sorrow they feel over the terrible social injustices that still exist. But they’re delusional. There is no compassion here. This has been written by big egos–egos fed off of thoughtless, immature self-righteousness and sectarianism.

    Sadly, I know this will not soften the minds of the authors. But at least others will know the truth as I witness it and the unfairness of this post.

  7. CUNY law student here who attended both classes mentioned. This is complete misrepresentation of what happened. Robson (con law) is an amazing teacher. Her academic credentials on social justice issues put these criticisms in a truly ludicrous light. Her class was perfectly delivered both from a “learning the law” perspective and the level of criticism she did express towards aspects of it.
    David Nadvorney is an amazing teacher. He did not ignore the upset student in that class. On the contrary–he gave her much more attention than she deserved and showed immense compassion while trying to make an important legal-education point.

    I understand the anger and passion which CUNY students who do agree with this post feel. I feel it too. But you’re shooting yourself in the foot not only educationally–this is counter productive as a world view. You are sowing division amongst your own ranks. You are making enemies of those who are your closest allies. You are weakening your cause. You are not fighting racism in America. You are perpetuating it.

    I’m sure the students who wrote this think that it exemplifies the compassion and sorrow they feel over the terrible social inequalities that still exist. There is no compassion here. This has been written by big egos–egos fed off of thoughtless, immature self-importance and self-righteousness.

    Sadly, I know this comment will not soften the minds of the authors. But at least others will know the truth as I witness it and the unfairness of this post.

  8. I am accepted to CUNY fall 2018. This article makes me feel very uncomfortable! I’m also accepted by NYLS with a scholarship. Also CUNY law being parsimonious about giving scholarships for students of color is troubling.

    • If you have a scholarship from NYLS call CUNY and tell them that. That’s how I got mine.

      Because frankly, if you think CUNY is bad you’ll be miserable at a traditional law school.

  9. Anon, this article is complete garbage. The only problem this school has is race-baiting, recent bad press, and dramatic students. Believe me, this school is not “parsimonious” about being giving scholarships to POC. I’m pretty sure we are the only ones who even get them.

    • The author provided evidence to support her assertion that minority students at CUNY Law on average receive fewer scholarships, and though it is far from a truly random sampling experiment, she acknowledges the shortcomings in her survey design. Nevertheless, her findings are consistent with current literature on the racialized distribution of merit scholarships at law schools. You present nothing more than an uneducated guess, or at minimum failed to present even a name that we may rely on to establish your credentials that demonstrate your expertise on the subject whereas to convince us that we may rely solely on your word.

  10. The author’s argument was that in order for an institution to truly create an inclusive environment it must take substantive steps toward that goal by creating long-term policies and procedures. Each of the incidents mentioned were not provided as evidence of a non-inclusive environment, nor were they presented as examples of racism or racial bias. The incident pertaining to the discussion of Plessy v Ferguson in the constitutional law class was provided to support the author’s premise that a law school that boasts of its commitment to social justice must “critically engage with the inherent racism of the law.” Much of the criticism has attempted to refute the authors point by noting that the professor’s goal in the discussion was to detail the theories that allowed for the court’s decision. Many have also chastised the author for missing this point. However, this criticism fails to grasp that that was exactly the author’s point, which was that the fact that legal principles support overtly discriminatory racialized laws demonstrates the propensity of the legal profession to uphold institutionalized racism and racialized power structures. The author argued of the importance of understanding and acknowledging this for lawyers who claim to have a desire to fight for social justice. Therefore, while some have blasted the author for failing to “understand how the other side thinks,” in neglecting to consider the nuanced manner in which the author’s claims relate to law, and immediately dismissing them, these commentators commit the very same error in which they accuse the author.

    Rather than race being inconsequential to the legal arguments and principles of Plessy v Ferguson, in Brown v BoE the Court believed it to be fundamental in deliberating the soundness of the doctrine that was established through Plessy. The court then abstracted a new prevailing doctrine that, in regards to education, separate was inherently unequal. Within the 50 years between the two cases the relevant law remained unchanged, and thus the court relied solely on theory and new interpretations of the law to support their ruling. Thus, a discussion on the effects of judicial doctrine on institutionalized racism would not have been inappropriate for a law school course, nor would it have disadvantaged students. Indeed, the process of understanding the intersection of race on legal doctrine would have been advantageous to students as it forces students to engage course case readings, and it allows for the practice of the cognitive processes that are required in forming new arguments. Indeed, such a discussion would reinforce course concepts and provide a practical approach to connecting competing legal doctrines and their implications on concepts such as stare decisis.

    A feature that distinguishes good attorneys from those who are great is the creative ability to find new methods of applying statute and doctrine to new sets of facts. Therefore, rather than being disadvantaged by the inability to fight “fire with fire when some prosecutor comes at you with real arguments,” students who are forced to engage with the racialized elements of the legal profession and are challenged to consider new methods of applying legal theory to the relevant facts, or nontraditional ways of considering traditional theories will have an advantage over their adversaries.

    Instead of dismissing the authors claims as an inherent tendency to reduce everything to racism, we should first ensure that we have accurately captured the author’s point, and then attempt to understand them, rather than immediately dismissing them.

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