How to eat the elephant in the legal academy.

AuthorRozelle, Susan D.
PositionEliminating discrimination against women law professors - The More Things Change ... Exploring Solutions to Persisting Discrimination in Legal Academia

Persistent discrimination is one of the elephants in the legal academy. We need to eliminate it, and we all know that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So here goes:

I'm Susan Rozelle, and I have begun to note all the ways in which United States law schools' institutional culture presumes the Ideal Worker: white, male, middle-class, middle-aged, and married to a woman who manages his home and his family life for him. We blindly continue to follow a variety of existing structural systems that both create and reinforce challenges for the many members of our community who fail to meet this embedded stereotype.

Workers are expected to be available by phone and email at all hours, though I humbly suggest that we in the academy very rarely face problems that cannot wait until morning. Events need attending in the early morning and in the evening, in conflict with child- or eldercare drop-offs, pick-ups, and bedtimes.

We are measured first by the amount of scholarship we produce, which is written during our "free" time, and of course those with fewer personal life obligations--as well as those with fewer teaching and service obligations--therefore are at an advantage. Who carries a disparate burden in these arenas? Women, minorities, and those who teach legal skills.

We are measured second by our teaching evaluations and by our collegiality, both of which fluctuate with the presence of implicit bias and how well we perform our types (a woman who is perceived either as "too masculine" or "too feminine," for example, will suffer in those arenas). And that is on top of my personal pet peeve: the abysmal lack of any sort of paid family leave at many schools, the lack of quality childcare options nationwide, and the persistent, unconscious discrimination documented in Presumed Incompetent (1) and addressed by the panelists prior to this "open mic" portion of the program.

So, how to eat this elephant? I would like to begin instituting--slowly, at a pace people can absorb--small changes that might add up to real benefits. And I am hopeful that we are beginning a real brainstorming session here, to generate lots of ideas. So just to get us started, here are some ideas I have had. Be kind; this is just brainstorming, and I would like to invoke the protections of the brainstorming stage of any collaborative problem-solving effort to insulate myself from criticism--or from the nasty kind of criticism, at least. I'm not committed to...

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