A Statement on Diversity, Equity and Belonging at UVA Law

From Dean Risa Goluboff

Quote above Clay Hall entrance

Diversity, equity, and belonging are values fundamental to the University of Virginia School of Law community, as well as to legal education more generally and the practice of law itself. It is critically important that the lawyers, leaders, and public servants we train both embrace and reflect the diversity of our nation and the globe.

A commitment to making our society a more just and equal one has been the abiding mission of my professional life. As a scholar, I have spent much of my career studying the pernicious effects of discrimination, cultural isolation, and political polarization. What I have learned has made me deeply committed to diversity not as some abstract concept but as a way of life. As dean of UVA Law, I work to bring that way of life into being here and to foster a culture in which everyone can thrive. Diversity, equity and inclusion are crucial for so many reasons and on so many levels: for establishing genuine dialogue across difference within our community; for ensuring access for all to law school and the legal profession; for maintaining a legal system that seeks justice as it represents and mediates conflicts between differing interests, goals and perspectives; and for achieving true equality as a society.

Above the entrance to our law school are the words, “That those alone may be servants of the law who labor with learning, courage, and devotion to preserve liberty and promote justice.” We have not always lived up to the promise of that statement. Our institution, like our nation, was born in contradiction — between the reality of slavery and the aspirations of democracy and service. We must continue to reckon with the legacy of slavery that has been part of our history since our 1819 founding, as well as the segregation and discrimination that followed. We also must continue to redefine what those founding aspirations mean for our own time. We bring those aspirations closer to reality striving to create a diverse community of students, faculty, and staff that ensures the belonging, thriving, and success of every member. We do so in how we, as teachers, scholars, and students — and as lawyers — advance justice in the world.

The words above our entrance are not self-fulfilling. They are hard fought and hard won. They require vigilance and constant renewal. The past shows us not only what we must overcome, but also how critical what we do here is to the pursuit of justice. Legal change happens all the time, in every community, every day, because of lawyers like those we are training our students to become.