Tulane Law icons, Professors Stacy Seicshnaydre and Robert Westley, whose collective work in civil rights and constitutional law have shaped the careers of hundreds of students, were awarded the Faculty EDI Excellence in Teaching Award, one of the university’s highest teaching honors in EDI.
In 2020, Seicshnaydre (L'92), Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and William K. Christovich Professor of Law and Robert A. Ainsworth Professor in the Courts and the Federal System, and Westley, LOCHEF Professor of Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, worked together to build and lead a minicourse titled Anti-Racist Lawyering: The Next Civil Rights Frontier. The course immersed law students in readings, analysis, and conversation about how law is frequently used to perpetuate anti-black racial harms and hierarchies and how students might use their legal education to disrupt those hierarchies.
“It is such a wonderful opportunity to be able to recognize two colleagues and friends for their tremendous work advancing the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the classroom,” said Interim Dean Sally Richardson.
In teaching their course, Seicshnaydre and Westley brought to the classroom the reality that lawyers have the power to disrupt systems that lead to institutional inequalities. The course had students hear from leading scholars, attorneys, organizers, and community leaders to explore historical civil rights barriers as well as current proposals to eliminate structural racism across multiple sectors including criminal justice, voting rights, education, housing, and the environment.
Outside of their work together on this course, Westley and Seicshnaydre have also worked to build their individual courses to be more diverse and equitable. Westley brings EDI issues into his Constitutional Law course on the Fourteenth Amendment where he introduces students to critical thinking about antidiscrimination law. Westley has educated thousands of law students on the topics of Critical Race Theory, the Fourteenth Amendment, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, and the Legal Profession.
Seicshnaydre similarly brought the EDI curriculum into her upper-level Fair Housing course and first-year Civil Procedure section by discussing with her students how the anti-discrimination laws and the “rules of the game” for lawsuits (the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) can be used to expand or diminish access to justice. She challenged students to consider how as lawyers they will utilize legal tools to build a more equitable society.
Both professors have a long history of ensuring an equitable classroom environment with diverse readings and putting the law they teach into context to make sure students understand how individuals – and frequently individuals most often left behind by our legal system – can be helped by the work of lawyers.
Both Seicshnaydre and Westley’s body of scholarly work highlights their deep commitment to equity. Since arriving at Tulane Law School, Westley has authored more than a dozen law review articles on race and the law and reparations for historical injustices. In 2021, he received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, which recognizes a scholar for excellence in research that addresses societal inequalities and promotes social change.
He is frequently invited to speak on issues of race and reparations and he is currently working on a book with Cambridge University Press titled called "Dismissed With Prejudice: The Enduring Quest for Black Reparations Under the Law” which examines reparations as a means to having real racial reconciliation.
Seicshnaydre is a leading authority on fair housing and anti-discrimination law, and her research and writing on housing law and policy have been influential in federal civil rights litigation. She was tapped to become the law school's vice dean this past summer by Interim Dean Richardson.
From 2016 to 2021, she served as Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Public Interest Programs. In that role, Seicshnaydre oversaw the full range of skills training, experiential, and public interest initiatives at Tulane Law School, including Clinics, Trial Advocacy and moot court, externships, Intersession skills boot camps, and Tulane’s pioneering pro bono program. And in 2022, just as Westley had the previous year, Seicshnaydre received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in EDI.
“Robert and Stacy are true leaders in the EDI field,” Richardson said. “Being able to recognize and celebrate their leadership in this area is incredibly important.”