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Racial Justice Task Force

Dean Fisher's Monday Monday Morning Message: May the Force of Justice Be with You

April 26, 2021

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."  - James Baldwin

Just as the murder of George Floyd was a watershed moment in the ongoing pursuit of racial and equal justice, so too was last week’s guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Keith Ellison, the Attorney General of Minnesota, called the verdict “accountability, which is the first step towards justice.” President Biden noted, “So we can’t leave this moment or look away, thinking our work is done… We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.”

Despite the guilty verdict, we know George Floyd’s death is not an isolated tragedy. The continued police shootings of people of color reminds us that law too often continues to be enforced and applied differently depending upon the color of one’s skin. See Professor Reggie Oh’s recent column in the Washington Monthly, Geography Helped Kill George Floyd

So what’s our role in being part of the solution?

On June 11, 2020, I issued our Call to Action to address racial and social justice, and antiracism. We created the CSU|LAW Social Justice and Antiracism Resources GuideCSU|LAW No Room for Silenceand CSU|LAW Anti-Asian Racism- We Stand in Solidarity webpages that includes relevant messages and statements.

Most importantly, we formed the CSU|LAW Racial Justice Task Force consisting of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to ensure that we implement our Call to Action.  We formed four Racial Justice Work Groups: School Climate, Training and Education, Public Action, and Community Conversations.


Work Group Reports 4.26.21



Co-Chairs: Tayler Gill ’22 , Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Dean for Student/Career Services, Professor April Cherry

Charge: Create a more inclusive and supportive environment at CSU|LAW.

2020-21 Progress Report

  •  Determined that data would be needed to make decisions about student experience and school climate
  • "Say her Name" Breonaa Taylor Teach-in (organized by Professor April Cherry and moderated by student co-chair Tayler Gill ) featuring legal experts Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich and Professor Reggie Oh.
  • Student-Only Discussion (moderated by student co-chair Tayler Gill ): Students were given the opportunity to speak openly and candidly on their feelings of school climate.
  • Law Student Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) Survey: Asst. Dean Sarah Beznoska partnered with LSSSE to have a survey administered to the entire student body with an added module surveying DEI issues. We are hoping to analyze that data towards the end of the academic year/over the summer.
  • Community Conversation: Race & Law: Capitol Insurrection vs. BLM Protests (Professor April Cherry worked in collaboration with Community Conversation Work Group) featuring Professor Ayesha Bell Hardaway (Case Law), Professor Reggie Oh, and Christopher McNeal ‘16, Counsel for Cleveland BLM 

2021-22 Plans/Goals

  •  Faculty/Staff DEI Training: Work with the Training and Education Work Group to bring in a third-party source for training.  
  • Center for Advocacy and Student Equity (CASE): CASE will be a “center” where students can report any incidences of inequity or other prejudicial issues at CSU|LAW. Students typically refrain from reporting said issues because they are afraid of the consequences they may suffer if they decide to report the wrong to a higher authority. We are currently working with OIE to figure out how to best implement this idea.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Pledge: Student co-chair Tayler Gill drafted a DEI pledge that will be distributed to the entire school on behalf of the Racial Justice Task Force. All students, faculty, and staff will be strongly encouraged to take this pledge. Working with Associate Dean Carolyn Broering-Jacobs on implementing this pledge (and other racial justice events) into the 1L orientation this upcoming August.



Co-Chairs: Davona Mason ‘22, Laura Ray, Outreach & Instructional Services Librarian, Professor Matthew Green

Charge: Develop training and education around bias, cultural competence, and anti-racism for students, faculty, and staff.

2020-2021 Progress Report

  • Researched and identified third-party organizations to assist with customizing a training program for students, faculty and staff at CSU|LAW to address such issues as bias, racism and cultural competence. Solicited proposals from three organizations engaged in education and training: Enlightened Solutions, the Anti-Defamation League and the Racial Equity Institute; Met with and interviewed associates of Enlightened Solutions and the Anti-Defamation League; and with the Social Climate Work Group and the Diversity Council, reviewed proposals and recommended to Dean Lee Fisher that CSU|LAW hire Enlightened Solutions to develop and implement a long-term training program addressing issues of bias, racism and cultural competence, among others.
  • Researched and identified third-party organizations to provide anti-bias training to incoming 1Ls during student orientation.  Recommended the law school hire Defex Online: https://thedefamationexperience.com/defex-online/.
  • Explored implementing a diversity and inclusion training program that could be available to students, faculty and staff in the late spring 2021 semester and through the summer.  Researched programs and selected the “21-day challenge,” a program that provides participants with resources (readings, podcasts, videos, and seminars) aimed at providing a deeper understanding of racism, bias and social justice and encourages participants to record their thoughts/impressions of the resources they review; Dean Fisher formed a subcommittee to design and tailor the program for CSU|LAW: Laura Ray, Professor Pamela Daiker-Middaugh, Taylor GillSarah Beznoska and Beth Farrell.
  • Uploaded the 21-Day Challenge to the CSU|LAW Social Justice & Antiracism Resource Guidehttps://guides.law.csuohio.edu/SocialJusticeAntiRacism

2021-22 Plans/Goals

  • Work with and support efforts of the 3rd party organization the law school ultimately hires to develop and implement training around issues of bias, racism and cultural competence. Coordinate with Associate Dean Carolyn Broering-Jacobs to gather student feedback on 1L diversity and inclusion orientation programming. With the Diversity Council, explore inviting diverse alumni to join the Diversity Council to gain additional perspectives from integral stakeholders on how to improve the law school climate for diversity and inclusion for students, faculty and staff. With the Diversity Council, explore ways to incorporate issues of social awareness and cultural competence into the law school curriculum.




Co-Chairs: Brandy Davis ‘22, Beth Farrell, Head of Library Access/Technical Services, Professor Ken Kowalski

Charge: Support and advocate for legislation, resolutions, and community actions that advance the cause of racial justice.                                            

2020-21 Progress Report

  • During the first full Work Group meeting on Sept 11, 2020 the group decided to devote our energies toward the Nov 3, 2020 election.
  • Created an online Voting Resource Guide which was updated weekly with election information, virtual events, and in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities. The guide had over 300 views during the 8 weeks it was up on the law library website and featured in the October 9th American Association of Law Libraries KnowItALL, a daily national newsletter which highlights legal information, industry trends, law, technology, library, and career development topics. 
  • Sent out 2 emails to all law students: the first to inform students about on-campus voter registration and election worker volunteer sign ups and the second to ask students who had applied to be election officials to contact the co-chairs so we could expedite their applications with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. 15 student applications were expedited, and most students were confirmed as election officials. 
  • The Co-Chairs met several times with Judge Ronald Adrine to discuss how the group could best help local voting initiatives. Judge Adrine identified that transportation to the polls could be an issue in the city of Cleveland because local church groups and other organizations were not organizing bus trips to the Board of Elections (BOE) for early voting. We created a flyer describing two organizations offering free rides to the BOE, and contacted all churches in Cleveland as well as other Cleveland area service organizations. Work Group members shared this information, and other election/volunteer information, with their social networks.
  • Worked with Associate Dean Sarah Beznoska to develop a series of panels designed to help students of color navigate diversity, inclusion, and bias issues in law school and their careers.
  • Reached out to Marketing Director Elaine Terman about including contact information for student group leadership on the law school website (so potential employers can easily find contact information for groups, e.g. an employer looking to offer an internship to a student of color could easily find BLSA contact information.) We will work to get this information on the website after new student leadership is elected in the spring. The information will be on this page: https://www.law.csuohio.edu/currentstudents/studentorganizations
  • During a meeting with Bar Exam Preparation Director Mary Jane McGinty and Professor Heidi Robertson to discuss supporting students of color taking the bar exam, we learned about the mentoring partnership with Norman S. Minor Bar Association. We will follow up with the Norman Minor Bar Association to learn more about this partnership. We hope to reach out to recent bar takers to learn what more can be done to help students of color with bar preparation.
  • Reached out to the Federal Student Bar Association and discussed the opportunity to partner on several events with them.
  • Worked with other work group co-chairs on developing the April 2021 Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge.

2021-2022 Plans/Goals

  • Inform the CSU|LAW community about issues related to voting rights and to advocate for free and fair elections.
  • Continue to explore how best to support law students of color as they prepare for the bar exam.
  • Continue to explore partnerships with local organizations and employers to create equal opportunities for law students of color.
  • Begin a series of panels designed to help students of color navigate diversity, inclusion, and bias issues in law school and their careers.



Co-Chairs: Chuka Anyafo ‘22, Amy Miller, Director of Alumni & Donor Relations /Associate Director for Enrollment, Professor Pam Daiker-Middaugh

Charge: Develop programming to provide regular learning and conversation opportunities.

 2020-21 Progress Report

  • Created 9 programs in AY20-21; 5 in Fall 2020 and 4 in Spring 2021. Conversation Series schedule.
  • Fall 2020: Partnered with Dean Fisher’s JEDI course to host the following forums: Racial Discrimination in Voting (September 24), Threats to Election 2020 (October 27), Employment Discrimination & Corporate Initiatives in Racial Equity (October 29), Health Disparities & Race (November 12), and Local Government & Racial and Social Justice (December 2)
  • Spring 2021: Viewing of the film, The Mauritanian, & Panel Discussion (February 24), Disparities in COVID Vaccinations in Greater Cleveland (March 31), Law & Race: The Capitol Insurrection v. Black Lives Matter Protests (April 7), and Student Panel & Viewing the film, King in the Wilderness (April 23)
  • Co-sponsored 5 programs in Spring 2021.
  • Two co-sponsored by Racial Justice Community Conversations & Criminal Justice Forum: How Policing Reinforces Racial Segregation in the 21st Century (March 10) and Policing and “Bluelining” (April 26).
  • Three co-sponsored by Racial Justice Community Conversations & Law School Name Committee: Facing and Confronting our History Forum (March 22), Guiding Principles for Naming an Institution (April 23), and The Legacy of Chief Justice John Marshall (April 27).
  • Diversity of panelists has been an important initiative.

Of the 9 Racial Justice Community Conversations we created, there were a total of 28 panelists. 9 were Black women, 7 were Black men, 1 Hispanic man, 1 Asian man, 6 White women, and 4 White men.
Of the 5 co-sponsored programs (Criminal Justice Forum & Law School Name Committee), there were a total of 9 panelists. 2 Black women, 1 Asian woman, 1 White woman, and 5 White men.

  • Hosted first Racial Justice Community Conversations Student Book Club. Students selected Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Dr. Beverly Tatum, read over winter break, and a group of students met to discuss the book and their thoughts (February 23)

2021-2022 Plans/Goals

  • Continue Racial Justice Community Conversations Student Book Club.
    • Goals: (1) Select at least one book for the entire community to read over the summer and discuss in September 2021. (2) Select one book for students to read over winter break and discuss in January 2022.
  • Racial Justice Film Series
    • Goal: Host at least two movies and panel discussions in the Fall semester and once a month in the Spring semester. We will begin securing films and panels over the summer.
    • We’ve had our first meeting of the Racial Justice Film Committee and members have submitted their film/documentary recommendations so we plan to make initial selections for Fall 2021 semester.
  • Seek out program ideas, moderators, and speakers from our alumni, students, and faculty and staff to provide educational, relevant, and high-quality Racial Justice Community Conversations in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022.

We are fortunate to teach law at a law school where our university leadership understands and supports the need for CSU College of Law to be among those on the front lines of this fight. It’s who we are.

  • We pledge to examine our own conscious and unconscious biases and how we can better stand in solidarity and alliance with communities of color and the disenfranchised. 
  • We commit to creating a community where all feel supported and valued. I encourage our students, faculty, and staff to engage in difficult conversations on equity, diversity, inclusion and racial justice with empathy. Let’s listen, truly listen, to the lived experiences of each other.
  • We commit to spending the next upcoming academic year further deepening our collective understanding, identifying possible solutions, and taking effective action. We will continue to actively engage with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, to listen and together determine the actions we must take.

Let us all follow the example of our 12 Racial Justice Work Group Co-Chairs and be JEDI Warriors.

May the force of justice be with you.

Dean Lee Fisher

Dean Fisher's Announcment of Racial Justice Task Force Workgroups

August 6, 2021

I am pleased to announce the Co-Chairs of each Work Group. Each Work Group is co-chaired by a student, staff member, and faculty member.

School Climate Work Group Co-Chairs

Tayler Gill, Sarah Beznoska, and Professor April Cherry

 Training and Education Work Group Co-Chairs

Davona Mason, Laura Ray, and Professor Matthew Green

 Public Action Work Group Co-Chairs

Brandy Davis, Beth Farrell, and Professor Ken Kowalski

Community Conversations Work Group  Co-Chairs

Chuka Anyafo, Amy Miller, and Professor Pam Daiker-Middaugh

As you know, on June 11, I issued our Call to Action to address racial and social justice, and antiracism.  I committed to spending the upcoming academic year deepening our collective understanding of social and racial justice issues, identifying possible solutions, taking effective action, and expanding and enhancing our resources. We created a CSU|LAW Social Justice and Antiracism Resources Guide and a CSU|LAW No Room for Silence webpage that includes relevant messages and statements.

Work Groups

We then formed the Racial Justice Task Force on which you serve to ensure that we implement our Call to Action. At our first meeting, I asked for additional ideas and we agreed to form smaller work groups. I want to thank my summer research assistants, Eryn Gebacz and Mandi Schenley, and Jill Johnson, Director of Strategic Initiatives, for helping me review all the excellent ideas and suggestions that have been submitted over the past few weeks.

As a result of our review, we have formed the 4 Work Groups described below. The items listed under each Work Group reflect the ideas and suggestions we have received to date. If we missed your idea or didn’t describe it in the way you would have liked, please discuss your idea at the first meeting of your Work Group. The Work Groups are not limited to the items listed- they are a starting point for your discussions.

 Training and Education Work Group

Charge: Develop training and education around bias, cultural competence, and anti-racism for students, faculty, and staff.

  • Develop training including follow-up conversations to assess learning and implementation; consider how frequently to host training; determine how to incentivize students, faculty and staff to attend training.
  • Explore developing a Certificate for Diversity and Inclusion.
  • After 2020 Summer Orientation, evaluate orientation training.
  • Explore ways to incorporate education around bias, cultural competence, anti-racism, and racial and social justice in the law school curriculum.
  • Explore developing a Task Force or Board of minority lawyers to assist the law school administration with understanding diversity issues and marketing, recruitment and retention of diverse students, staff and faculty

School Climate Work Group

Charge: Create a more inclusive and supportive environment at CSU|LAW.

  • Explore ways to implement and support the 2018-2021 Strategic Plan related to the law school’s efforts to recruit and retain diverse students.
  • Develop a CSU|LAW Climate Survey(s) to garner feedback from the law school community of faculty, staff and students; consider how to implement feedback from the survey. 
  • Help ensure our academic, bar prep, career, professional, social and community support systems for students are effective, inclusive, and welcoming for all.
  • Continue to create physical and virtual spaces for members of communities within the Law School to gather around their shared experiences, and to intersect and collaborate around inclusion.
  • Explore implementation of an Emergency Minority Fund including possible scholarships.
  • Explore developing a Mentorship Program for minority students.
  • Explore creating a Minority Student Ambassador program to help with marketing and admissions initiatives.
  • Develop a resource for minority student advocacy and equity. This group would consist of student leaders serving as a resource to the entire student body. It would provide educational resources to students on diversity and inclusion and serve as a liaison between the students and faculty when necessary.

Community Conversations Work Group

Charge: Develop programming to provide regular learning and conversation opportunities.

  • Develop Community Town Halls/panel discussions in collaboration with our culturally specific organizations at CSU|LAW (e.g. BLSA, HLSA, OUTLaw, ILSA, and WLSA).
  • Develop ways to increase the representation of minorities and women as speakers, honorees, Leaders-in-Residence, visiting faculty, invited guests and participants in law school functions.
  • Devote the 2020-21 Criminal Justice Forum Lecture Series organized by the Criminal Justice faculty to issues of police accountability and racial justice in the criminal justice system. 
  • Work with Dean Fisher on developing a Racial Justice Film Series in partnership with the CSU Film School.
  • Explore implementing a Community Book Read.
  • Explore curating an Art Exhibit focused on Black Lives Matter.

Public Action Work Group

Charge: Support and advocate for legislation, resolutions, and community actions that advance the cause of racial justice.                                            

  • Implement Voter Registration initiatives.
  • Explore creating a Day of Service on Election Day (November 3, 2020).                      
  • Collaborate with leaders in the legal community to challenge hiring, retention, and advancement practices that disadvantage minority law students and attorneys.                 
  • Deepen our involvement and leadership with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Louis Stokes Scholars Program, other related CMBA programs, Norman S. Minor Bar Association, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, and other social and racial justice organizations.