To the Tulane Law Community:
Recent days have washed our nation in grief. In the space of 72 hours, the number of American lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic surged past 100,000 and the nation watched in horror as Minneapolis police officers extinguished the life of George Floyd. The days since have brought convulsions of understandable outrage and, sadly, violence.
Amid a pandemic that has taught the world searing lessons about our interconnectedness and the importance of mutual support, it seems that recent days have exposed an epidemic of callousness: the shocking callousness of the officer who drove his knee into George Floyd’s neck and drained away his life over the span of 8 minutes and 46 seconds and of his three colleagues who did nothing to intervene; of those who hijacked legitimate protests to lay waste to the life’s work and livelihoods of scores of small business owners, many of them families of color; and of leaders who looked past profound suffering and injustice only to fan further division in a cynical bid for political advantage.
As a nation, we are all called to reflect deeply on the conditions that have brought us to this moment: centuries of entrenched inequality and prejudice and a failure of sustained will to confront and uproot it. As a law school community, we have a special obligation through our shared professional commitment to the values of equal justice and a special opportunity to use our training, insight, and understanding to make a difference.
At Tulane Law School, we are proud that our distinctive approach to preparing lawyers has long emphasized leadership and service to improve society. This summer, our clinical program, one of the first and finest in the country, is adding four new faculty and two new clinics focused on vindicating the rights of immigrants and the essential freedoms of the First Amendment to speak, protest, assemble, and report the news. Our innovative Women’s Prison Project is adding two new faculty members dedicated to preparing students to advocate for women incarcerated for defending themselves against abusive partners. The Class of 2020 set a new benchmark in Tulane’s 33-year legacy as the first law school in the country to require pro bono service of its students – racking up more than 24,000 hours of legal assistance fighting housing discrimination, job bias, domestic violence, helping the formerly imprisoned return to society, and more.
Yet we know that we must redouble our efforts. It was only last year that Tulane Law School recognized the graduation of our first African-American student, Michael Starks, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this landmark event. The more than 300 alumni who gathered at Weinmann Hall for our inaugural Black Law Alumni Weekend were a dazzling testament to the talent, impact, and leadership of our community – and, equally, an inspiration for how much more we are all called upon to do.
In the days to come, I hope we can unite as a community in our commitment to the values that make our profession noble – equality, justice, service, and fidelity to the truth, even when the facts are painful – and in working together to fulfill the unrealized promise of our nation.
David D. Meyer
Dean and Mitchell Franklin Professor of Law
Tulane University Law School