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University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law Interim Dean Mary J. Davis recently announced the creation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (“DEI”) Student Advisory Board intended to foster communication on issues of racial justice, diversity, and inclusion in the law school community and more broadly.

Eight students were selected for the board in late September, following a nomination and application process: Christina Collins, Maira Gomez, Maya Marshall, Molly Crain, Sterling Crayton, Isra Shafi, Harrison Chittenden, and Shantale Davis.

“I thank these students for their willingness to serve in this critically important role, and I appreciate everyone who expressed a willingness to serve,” Davis said. “Their enthusiasm and energy for this task is palpable. The work we will be doing to advance racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusivity in our community is some of the most important work we will do together. I look forward to seeing the impact it will have.”

The board plans to meet monthly with the dean and associate/assistant deans to discuss issues related to diversity and inclusion at UK Rosenberg Law. Members will also collaborate with faculty committees, including the Appointments, Curriculum, Diversity, and Executive committees. Finally, the board will host independent activities, events, forums, and other specific actions desired by the board or requested by the dean. 

The DEI Student Advisory Board is just one example of how UK Rosenberg Law students, faculty, and staff are working to address racial injustices in our communities and create a diverse, equitable and inclusive law school community.

The UK Rosenberg Law Diversity Committee, a faculty-led committee, strives to build a diverse and enriching environment and raise awareness about the importance of these efforts. The Diversity Committee hosts a series of diversity discussions each year. Although this diversity committee— comprising faculty, staff, and students—is not new, the programming this year will address current events and the injustices at issue.

The first UK Rosenberg Law Diversity Committee Discussion Series in early October invited the University of Kentucky community to discuss policing with guests Anthany Beatty, UK assistant vice president of public safety and finance and administration/chief diversity officer; Russell Coleman, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; and Jocelyn Simonson, a professor at Brooklyn School of Law. The panelists discussed structural police practices that could lead to disproportionate uses of force in the Black community.

“It is crucial that our law students engage in meaningful dialogue with each other and faculty, administration, and staff about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Daniel P. Murphy Jr., UK Rosenberg Law’s senior assistant dean of community engagement and operations/chief diversity officer. “As law students and future attorneys, they have the platforms to foster civil discussion on these important issues and then seek to make the necessary changes, be it through law, policies and, more importantly, in people’s minds and hearts.”

Faculty and staff at UK Rosenberg Law are also active in diversity initiatives across the university and in the Lexington, Kentucky, community.

Murphy was selected with Scott R. Bauries, associate dean of research and Willburt D. Ham Professor of Law, to co-lead the University  of Kentucky’s team on responsible speech, addressing a need to prioritize the university’s commitment to diversity and climate of inclusion for diverse students, faculty and staff, within the parameters of constitutional and legal protections of speech.

Off campus, Professor Melynda J. Price, who also serves as director of the Gaines Center for Humanities, was appointed to the Law Enforcement, Justice & Accountability Subcommittee of Lexington Mary Linda Gorton’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality. The commission aims to listen, discuss, and create empowering solutions that dismantle systemic racism in Fayette County, Kentucky.

Several UK Rosenberg Law faculty and alumni also participated in a three-part series about institutional racism in legal systems, organized by the National Bar Association’s John Rowe Chapter in Lexington and the Fayette County Bar Association. In August, Price joined a panel, “Understanding the Impact of Race in Criminal Justice,” for the first of the three events. Rosenberg law alumni Fayette County District Court Judge Melissa Murphy and Noel Caldwell, attorney at law, were also on the panel. In September, Bauries joined a panel, “Understanding the Impact of Race in Employment,” with Rosenberg law alumna Latoi Mayo of Littler Mendelson P.C. also on the panel. Finally, on Oct. 8, Professor Robert G. Schwemm served as a panelist on the discussion titled, “Institutional Racism in Legal Systems: Criminal Justice, Employment & Housing.”