The West Virginia University College of Law (WVU Law) is committed to promoting genuine diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within its community, in the legal profession, and throughout society; and to educating leading lawyers with a deep appreciation and understanding of DEI. WVU Law recognizes that diversity promotes (1) plural perspectives that result in the best wisdom-of-crowds outcomes and (2) individual fairness where individuals who feel welcomed and valued can achieve their full potential.
WVU Law also understands that plural perspectives are best obtained through the free exchange of ideas and the engagement of different viewpoints. Deep diversity animates WVU Law’s Mission, Values, and Learning Outcomes.
As a land-grant institution, WVU is committed to increasing higher education access to all underserved populations. Although the initial version of this DEI Strategic Plan had already been drafted in January, two events in the intervening months have highlighted the continuing critical need to improve genuine DEI in our society. Those two events are the COVID-19 pandemic and the police killings of George Floyd and other persons of color.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged in 2020 has had a severe disparate impact on racial minorities, particularly Native, Black, and Latinx Americans. It has also prompted a pattern of racist verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans. In March 2020, WVU ended all in-person classes and most on-campus operations for the rest of the spring semester in response to the continued health threat of COVID-19.
Second, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black American, was killed by a Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Officer who used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for over eight minutes. Floyd’s death catalyzed mass protests demanding police reform in West Virginia, the rest of the United States, and the world.
The West Virginia Bar, WVU, and WVU Law have already addressed some aspects of these events. In adopting this DEI Strategic Plan, the WVU Law community opposes and condemns all forms of racial injustice, bias, and discrimination — systemic, institutional, implicit or otherwise — that continue to blight our nation almost two and a half centuries after its founding.
The WVU Law faculty recognizes that understanding of the impact of institutional racism and implicit bias is limited by white privilege and life experiences. So, while we take responsibility in this call to action, we commit to listening and learning from our faculty, staff, and students of color about how to best effectuate change. We pledge to consult with them and other marginalized groups and to engage with our broader community, including our alumni, to formulate policies and specific actions to advance racial justice on Law School Hill, the campuses of WVU, and beyond.