Cardozo School of Law requires students to take course on 'race and racism' to graduate

Starting this fall, law students at Yeshiva University will have to complete six trainings on social justice to obtain their degree.

The changes were announced last week after a lengthy faculty review of the curriculum at the law school.

The Cardozo University School of Law at Yeshiva University now requires students to take a course on “race and the law,” which will comprise six trainings related to social justice issues.

The changes were announced in a June 10 email obtained by Campus Reform. According to the email, the changes are being implemented to “help our students examine and understand racism in the law and throughout the legal system.”

Starting in the fall 2021 semester when the changes take effect, students will need to choose from the upper-level courses that include “Race and the Law,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Indigenous Rights in the Americas,” and “Cross-Cultural Negotiation.”

First-year curriculum will be “devoted to diversity and inclusion, implicit bias, microaggressions, cultural competency, and related issues,” according to the email.

Faculty will also be required to attend annual training sessions that are focused on incorporating social justice issues into the classroom. In addition, the law school instructors “will work to integrate explorations of race and racism throughout the curriculum, including in courses that are not primarily or ostensibly about race,” according to the email.

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The university will also create an “Associate Dean of Equity in Curriculum and Teaching” position within the law school.

The new requirements for students and faculty come after Melanie Leslie, dean of the Cardozo School of Law, wrote in an email obtained by Campus Reform to all students after the death of Jacob Blake that “Well-intentioned messages condemning racial violence are insufficient.”

Leslie went on to say that the university “must do our part to eradicate systemic racism.” She went on to say that the faculty committee on Educational Policy will examine “the treatment of race in our pedagogy and curriculum.”

Andrew Windsor, the president of the Student Bar Association was asked by Jenn Kimm, the associate dean of student services at the Cardozo law school, to appoint two students for an advisory role with no voting power in the committee on Educational Policy, according to emails shared with Campus Reform.

Rising second year law student Joseph Pomerantz told Campus Reform that there does not seem to be ubiquitous racism present at his school and said that, “I don’t see what this has to do with law.”

Army Veteran and rising third year law student at Cardozo Trenton Hanifin told Campus Reform that the changes are needed.

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“The current curriculum requirements alone do not do enough to prepare students to thrive in a society that is as diverse and full of opportunity as the United States,” Hanifin said. “Racism is built into the United States Legal system and its application,” but that, “the better that a professor can dissect and investigate the underlying Racism, the better the professor can explain the underlying law and the arguments for and against its existence.” 

Citing his experience in the United States Military, Hanifin said that “Cardozo, like the other organization I work for, the US Army, is both a Racist and Anti-Racist organization. Both things can be true at the same time. I think these curriculum changes will help students and faculty to treat each other with the dignity and respect that they deserve by helping us understand each other so that everyone who is part of the school can flourish and develop.”

Campus Reform reached out to Dean of Cardozo School of Law, Melanie Leslie, as well as Dean of Students, Jennifer Kim, the current President of the Student Bar Association, and other members of the Cardozo Student Government.