OPEN LETTER: Demands From The Black Law Students Association

To: Dean Jennifer Collins, President Gerald Turner, the Southern Methodist University Board of Trustees, and all faculty members, staff members and administrators of Southern Methodist University undergraduate and graduate schools

From: The Black Law Students Association of the SMU Dedman School of Law

The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law vehemently and fervently condemns the violent terrorist attacks on Black people, police brutality, racism, and white supremacy. We offer our deepest condolences and stand in firm solidarity with the family and friends of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Sean Reed, and countless other Black people who have died at the hands of anti-Black police and other law enforcement, and white domestic terrorists that have plagued our nation for centuries.

Southern Methodist University’s motto, “Veritas Liberabit Vos,” translates in English to “The truth will make you free.” As children, our guardians, and society as a whole, instilled in us the fundamental truth of right and wrong. To effectuate the necessary change that will make this country the greatest it can be, we all must begin to speak candidly and loudly about what is wrong with America if we truly want our nation to be what it purports to be – “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” We all must confront the truth about what is wrong with our nation and our University, no matter how uncomfortable and ugly that truth may be so we can begin the process of transformative change.

In this vein, we feel a strong sense of conviction regarding the ways we can work with the faculty, staff, and administrators to be the architects of change at the Dedman School of Law, SMU, and in the Dallas community at large. For these reasons, we are calling on President Turner and all campus administrators to end performative solidarity by first acknowledging the pervasive racism at our University. Furthermore, we demand that President Turner and all campus administrators implement systemic changes at SMU and the Dedman School of Law that will eradicate racism campus wide, racially diversify the legal field by producing more Black attorneys, and also produce culturally competent attorneys and legal scholars of all identities.

Thus, we demand the following:

  1. We demand that by the academic year 2022-2023, 25% of the SMU Board of Trustees be comprised of Black members. The individuals who are selected need to have a demonstrated interest in Blackissues and must have equitable say in whatever decisions are made. These individuals will not be powerless placeholders.

  2. We demand that SMU hire a Chief Diversity Officer that oversees the diversity initiatives of each school with one of the main initiatives being the substantial increase in admissions of Black students.

  3. We demand that SMU allocate the funds necessary to hire a full time Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Dedman School of Law. This Director should have equal decision-making power with the current admissions staff regarding all admissions and scholarship offers, with an emphasis placed

    on increasing the number of Black students admitted and offered scholarships.

We want to thank Dean Collins for her continued support and assistance in making SMU Dedman School of Law not only a well-respected and academically prestigious institution, but also a place where student concerns are heard and acknowledged. While we appreciate Dean Collins’ support, we also understand that her actions are limited by the parameters imposed by President Turner and the University Board of Trustees, as well as faculty participation. We are demanding that our university hold its students, faculty, staff members, administrators, and the entire institution accountable in the fight to dismantle the legacy of anti-Black racism and white supremacy. We expect change and demand that SMU do the right thing by Black students.

Signed,

The 2020-21 Black Law Students Association of the SMU Dedman School of Law