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Law School Hosts Dialogue on Gender in America

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Two years ago, the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Wenjian Liu, and Rafael Ramos, sparked national debate and opened an unrivaled opportunity to raise awareness about civil rights and continuing inequity in the United States, to teach law students the importance and the challenge of diversity and inclusion, and to help them embrace their role as change agents.

Seizing this community-raising moment, the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights joined student leaders to launch the Day One Dialogues as part of the Law School’s ongoing exploration of important issues of race, justice, and the law.

On January 17, 2017, this vital conversation continued when the Ron Brown Center, the Coalition for Social Justice, and the Women's Law Society presented Day One Dialogues: Gender in America Today.

After Dean Michael A. Simons welcomed the students, faculty, and administrators to the conversation, Professor Elaine M. Chiu, director of the Ron Brown Center, introduced the guest speaker, Judith Ryder, Ph.D., an associate professor of Sociology and Anthropology at St. John’s University. Dr. Ryder, who also directs St. John’s Women and Gender Studies concentration, shared that many identities come into play in people’s experience of gender, difference, and marginalization, including race and gender, gender and class, gender and ability, gender and sexual orientation, gender and religion, and other combinations.  

The participants then broke into small groups to facilitate dialogues on a range of topics related to gender in America. "The discussions were wide-ranging and touched on gender during the presidential election, in legal workplaces, during job interviews, in our classrooms, and in our curriculum,” Professor Chiu says. “Students spoke passionately about their experiences and observations, and they were eager to keep thinking about the issues of gender and other identities. As future lawyers, they will be voices in a continuing dialogue about gender in America today."

Me’Dina Cook '17 facilitated one of the discussion groups. “It was touching to me, as a woman going into a male dominated career, to see an event centered on discussing hardships women encounter both in society and in the workplace,” she says. “Open conversations like these are small steps law students can take to continue the fight to turn progress into parity.”

Reflecting on her experience as a student participant Samantha Ojo '19 says: ““It was wonderful, and important, to come together as a community to discuss a topic that’s always timely, but is particularly in the public consciousness today. I especially loved that Dr. Ryder’s introduction emphasized the importance of an intersectional approach to gender studies. The members of my dialogue group created a space where a diversity of perspectives was encouraged and embraced, and I learned quite a bit, including that St. John’s offers a course focused on race, gender, and law. The ability to keep an open mind, and to hold a space for different opinions, is crucial for lawyers. The Day One event offered an opportunity for law students to model and hone that ability.”

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