The Legal Beat
Biting Joke Underscores Worse Law School Diversity Problem
Posted on Thursday October 14, 2021
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Law schools throw parties to celebrate.
Nothing about that seems all that unusual. Frankly, that’s the sort of thing law schools should be doing.
But in this promotional message from the University of Chicago, there’s a little twist. Take a look and see what you think… we’ll regroup after and discuss.
Now some folks questioned parts of the message, like, “on-theme food, e.g., tacos (!!!)” Was this an instance of collapsing the entirety of Latin America to some bad stereotypes learned from the Taco Bell spokeschihuahua? Rest assured, I think that’s just bad lawyering: the author uses “e.g.” not “i.e.” and if the Bluebook taught us anything, it’s that signals matter!
But, as this particular forwarded version highlights, what about the “rare sighting of “(two?)” faculty members? Is that making light of an otherwise troubling aspect of the school?
I’ll admit that I read it differently every time I go over it, but I’m leaning toward this as ironic commentary. I’ve got to think the author recognizes that it’s a little messed up that the school hosts a celebratory cultural event while the faculty remains woefully bereft of representation. In that world, they used this message as an opportunity to call some folks out, couching this serious point as a joke — filling out the “rule of threes” with yuks about drunk 2Ls (always a kneeslapper) and college grads can drink (will the Catskills ever get old?) and then just dropping this bomb to deliver some hard truths about faculty hiring behind a sugar coating. That’s got to be it, right?
Whatever the context, it’s an important point. Law schools have a problem when it comes to faculty diversity. Some do better on this score than others, but it’s also not a problem that can get “fixed” — it’s a process that requires constant, unceasing work. Law schools need to be constantly reminded of where they’re falling short and… not for nothing… “two” is definitely falling short.
So while Chicago may be the springboard for this discussion, it’s not the only school facing these problems. On the other hand, why do we always keep coming back to Chicago when we talk about this stuff?
I dunno, could the school’s troubles recruiting Latinx faculty have anything to do with hosting events calling immigrants “toilet people”? Or the administration doubling down on how they didn’t see anything inappropriate about that?
Yeah… it’s a real mystery.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.