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[Serious] How do you feel law schools embrace diversity? Can it be improved?

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Right off the bat, this is a serious inquiry and something I have been genuinely concerned about lately.

This means a lot to me because I have lived in Canada all my life and identify myself as a die-hard hockey-crazed Canadian citizen. However, people tend to nitpick how I was not born here (came to Canada when I was less than one years old), appear non-white, and because I have a "foreign name" people would assume that I am an international student with poor English. Yes, I have had some tough years being bullied because of my name to the point I felt ashamed having it because teachers asked if I could change it to deter the bullying. Or having heard the infamous phrase off the street, “go back to your own country.” Of course, I by no means have experienced the worst and am proud to have tackled a lot of these barriers growing up, but I do feel is a responsibility to highlight that this is real problem that does happen in Canada.

 I can see how someone can assume common trends they experience which results to manifest into dangerous over-generalizations and stereotypes, but thankfully we are becoming more self-aware of these situations and striving towards promoting awareness and education.

I really would like to start a productive conversation on how you may feel your university lacks or promotes diversity. Whether it is making racism/gender/sexism/etc workshops mandatory, having different applicant streams, or pretending nothing is wrong, I’m really curious. Is it enough? What do you envision being more appropriate during this day and age? If this wasn’t an experience you connect with, can you still think of things that could be done?

Please keep in mind that we are all human, we are not perfect. Even universities make mistakes (lol), but I definitely think it is important to have dialogue acknowledging on how you feel whether your university is making an effort during this time.

I don't think it hurts looking at ways we can improve and strive to be better :). Sending good vibes.

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Posted (edited)

My university certainly is not doing enough, but I would change the following if I could:

1. Cut tuition, significantly.

2. Affirmative action in admissions to increase representation in the profession.

  • Or at minimum, review of applicants done by a more diverse admissions committee with more diverse life experiences (read: not mostly cis, white, wealthy). 

3. Affirmative action in law school hiring.

4. Anti-racism and anti-oppression training for law school admin and staff.

  • Students too, but the school already does this to a certain extent. 

5. A course that meets the TRC recommendation to law schools.

Edited by albertabean
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Wow. I'm really sorry to hard about the racism you have experienced.

I find it hard to imagine that shouts of "go back to your own country" (or anything remotely resembling that) are common at Canadian law schools.

From what I have heard, Canadian law schools go to great lengths to invite diversity into their schools. Whites and Asians I know have even expressed bitterness that they feel they need a higher LSAT and GPA to get into law school than more diverse candidates.

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1 hour ago, SNAILS said:

Wow. I'm really sorry to hard about the racism you have experienced.

I find it hard to imagine that shouts of "go back to your own country" (or anything remotely resembling that) are common at Canadian law schools.

From what I have heard, Canadian law schools go to great lengths to invite diversity into their schools. Whites and Asians I know have even expressed bitterness that they feel they need a higher LSAT and GPA to get into law school than more diverse candidates.

I didn't actually think racism would be so bad in law school until I read this post 

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1 hour ago, SNAILS said:

Wow. I'm really sorry to hard about the racism you have experienced.

I find it hard to imagine that shouts of "go back to your own country" (or anything remotely resembling that) are common at Canadian law schools.

From what I have heard, Canadian law schools go to great lengths to invite diversity into their schools. Whites and Asians I know have even expressed bitterness that they feel they need a higher LSAT and GPA to get into law school than more diverse candidates.

Don't Asians fall into the diversity category? Which groups are you insinuating as being "more diverse candidates?"

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(Dear God. Okay, so SNAILS means "student not actually in law school" and this poster is, actually, not even in law school.)

OP, in an attempt to address your actual question, when I went to Queen's come fifteen years ago it had big problems with diversity. We had all of two students identifying as aboriginal and a grand total of twice as many black students. The ratio of white to POC was easily a 75/25 and for Queen's it was one of the more diverse schools. Queen's also had some well-publicized racist incidents on campus (people appearing in blackface being one of the better known). It was undoubtably a white school with a white history and mostly white students and professors.

I do not know how much of that has changed overall, but change has happened - and it's as much a ground up effort as anything else. Students these days challenge norms and authority in a way they never did in my day - and that's GOOD. The law schools have been put on the spot to do better, and they have hired and empowered people who sincerely work toward doing better, and that's good too. 

So while I can't tell you that my old school is particularly diverse, I can tell you that there have been a lot of people embodying the whole "be the change you want to see" mantra and fighting the good fight. I hope you decide to join in.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, SNAILS said:

From what I have heard, Canadian law schools go to great lengths to invite diversity into their schools. Whites and Asians I know have even expressed bitterness that they feel they need a higher LSAT and GPA to get into law school than more diverse candidates.

I believe that you are thinking of American law schools (and American choice schools that factor race in as part of a holistic review of all applicants. Not about Canada as I don't think that the same research to the level of depth has been done here. 

As others lambast @SNAILS, here is an article that summarizes a lot of the research that has been done in the USA on this topic. The model minority stereotype isn't as strong in Canada because we have protectionist systems that prevented that (eg. medical professionals from other jurisdictions have a difficult time being able to practice in Canada so highly educated immigrants didn't always choose Canada as their first choice. These populations place a high value on education and quite often are privileged where they come from. Many are hardcore tiger parents. Whereas all of the first generation immigrant parents that were around when I was growing up had come from very humble beginnings. This an oversimplified analysis). Canadian stereotypes about model minorities have mostly (but not all) been created out of our immigrant populations quite literally making something out of nothing - quite often working in low wage jobs with the hope that their children will be the ones that lift the family out of poverty through higher education. 

The model minority stereotype both privileges' and disadvantages of those minority groups that don't meet the stereotype. They benefit because on first look, many hold members of these groups with high regard. But they people assume information about their background, which may not be true which impacts access to all kinds of programs, supports, etc. 

Anyways - this topic is about how law schools embrace diversity. I am not a law student yet so I don't know how to comment on that. I think that the answers today will look different in 5 years from now. 


Overall I can't say how I want them to - but I can say that I would like them to start looking at the language that they use. 

Case in point - UVIC's discretionary application states the following: 

"Describe the manner in which your ethnic background or culture has adversely affected your academic achievements or LSAT score."

 Reading that I think that someone that is not from a visible minority and/or Indigenous group wrote that. I get what they are trying to ask, but their language is so off. It isn't your ethnic background or culture has adversely affected your academic achievements or LSAT score, it is the racism, bigotry, systemic bias, patriarchy amongst 10,000 other things that have impacted your LSAT score. No one should feel that it is a bad thing being born into a certain background. We should be angered at the things in society that negatively impact people born into certain backgrounds. 

Edited by OyVey
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On 4/15/2021 at 1:00 PM, albertabean said:

A course that meets the TRC recommendation to law schools.

I always felt that there was a lot of overlap between Property Law and Constitutional Law wrt Aboriginal Title/Rights and that it could have been made into its own separate course. I would have preferred a required Intro to Aboriginal Law course in 1L over the "Legal Perspectives" course TRU mandates (which is a poor attempt at scratching the surface of several mainstream areas of philosophy).

We did have mandatory "TRC Days" though, which were pretty impactful imo. However there were always a handful of jackasses who would sign the attendance sheet at the start and then sneak out at the first opportunity. 

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Aschenbach said:

wow, I wouldn't even know how to answer this. "Because I'm X race, I didn't perform as well in school"?

Exactly. Something that I would like them to address - but their issues around language are more then just this one-off situation. There are other instances (including the law school application process) that has other problematic language. For such a stereotypically social justice leaning and *woke* school, they aren't as woke as one would think. They may get it right in some areas, but across the board, I think that they have some work to do. 

I can't speak to what it is actually like at UVIC and if in practice racism and discrimination play out, but they definitely need to update their documents. 

Edited by OyVey
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5 minutes ago, Aschenbach said:

wow, I wouldn't even know how to answer this. "Because I'm X race, I didn't perform as well in school"?

It comes across like they are asking applicants to cite the work of Charles Murray. lol

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Calling out UVIC again - didn't notice this one earlier. Discretionary application also says: 

"Provide information about any other circumstances which are not directly addressed above, but which you believe are relevant to the Discretionary criteria of academic disadvantage (e.g., physical or sexual abuse, or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation). Provide corroborating documentation." (Bolded by me for emphasis).

Yeah no thanks. I don't think that anyone should be providing corroborating documentation about physical or sexual abuse to a school's administrative staff as they are not trained to deal with that information and may experience vicarious trauma.  

Other schools often say that in their discretionary application that you can have a counsellor or someone else write a letter confirming what happened to you, and I am surprised that they haven't done that. 

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7 minutes ago, OyVey said:

Other schools often say that in their discretionary application that you can have a counsellor or someone else write a letter confirming what happened to you, and I am surprised that they haven't done that. 

TBF I'm sure that would count as "corroborating documentation." But I take your point about this all being poorly phrased.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, OyVey said:

Other schools often say that in their discretionary application that you can have a counsellor or someone else write a letter confirming what happened to you, and I am surprised that they haven't done that. 

I have a problem with this (and with the idea of providing proof of your circumstances in general) because when places ask for these documents it can be really hard for some people to provide them. Access to healthcare is a real problem for some groups and being told "prove that you experienced 'x'" can itself perpetuate discrimination. Just being able to access therapy is enormously difficult in Canada, because you need a ton of disposable income to do so. It gives people with better access to healthcare, who tend to be wealthy and white, better odds in the law school application process.

I experienced real discrimination in the health care system (my family doctor, at my parents' request, referred me to a conversion therapist in high school), and I don't have any documentation of the mental illness that caused me to have a disastrous first two years of undergrad, mostly because it was such a horrible experience that I wasn't able to trust therapists or doctors for several years after that (which I think is perfectly understandable).

Seeing an application telling me to provide documentation was hugely demotivating, as it basically just ignores the lived reality that so many LGBT people go through. I folded that part of my story into my personal statement and figured that if the school wanted to disregard that because I didn't have documentation to prove it, then that was their prerogative.

Edited by bocuma
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2 minutes ago, bocuma said:

-Snip-

I take your point but can't agree with your proposed approach in light of how common self-diagnosis of various mental illnesses, and conflation of common negative life experiences with exceptional trauma or mental illness, has become. To take people at their word would trivialize legitimate issues and legitimize trivial ones.

This site regularly provides examples, with some of the inquiries users have about whether their situations are grounds for access claims when they clearly are not.

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The discretionary category at Allard has no such questionnaire. It just asks that applicants submit supporting documents without getting into detail as to what they should be.

 

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30 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

I take your point but can't agree with your proposed approach in light of how common self-diagnosis of various mental illnesses, and conflation of common negative life experiences with exceptional trauma or mental illness, has become. To take people at their word would trivialize legitimate issues and legitimize trivial ones.

This site regularly provides examples, with some of the inquiries users have about whether their situations are grounds for access claims when they clearly are not.

I totally agree with you that this is a problem. I think adcoms should encourage people to tell their story, offer a space to submit supporting documents, and perhaps ask people to explain why they aren't able to offer supporting documents if they have none. Some flexibility would improve the process.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, bocuma said:

I totally agree with you that this is a problem. I think adcoms should encourage people to tell their story, offer a space to submit supporting documents, and perhaps ask people to explain why they aren't able to offer supporting documents if they have none. Some flexibility would improve the process.

That sounds like a reasonable approach (and I suppose I misunderstood what you intended to imply in your earlier post; my bad). And by the way I'm sorry that you went through such a horrible experience and I totally think that yours is a great example of a case where rules should be more flexible. Congrats on your acceptances!

Edited by CleanHands

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