Diversity Week Preview

By Madiha Malik

This year marks the fifth anniversary of Diversity Week, which is slated to take place March 23–27. The focus for this year’s programming will be the youth and future of our profession, according to Diversity Committee Co-Chair, Dan Lage, in an email sent out to student organizations in late January. “Many of the week’s events will deal with issues that young people face,” wrote Lage.

Diversity Week will kick-off on March 23rd with the annual “CommUnity Luncheon,” when student organizations will share updates with the Law School community. In the evening, the “Power of Our Narratives” event will return, featuring members of the Law School community who will share personal stories, giving the audience a glimpse into their individual triumphs and struggles.

On March 24th, the daytime 5th Anniversary Diversity Week Celebration will bring past Diversity Committee members back to UConn Law to reflect on and celebrate the success of Diversity Week over the years. The event will also include karaoke and sweet treats, providing a laid back atmosphere aimed at getting students and faculty to know each other. Local high school and college students will also join in the festivities.

New events this year include “Equal Education Under the Law,” a moderated discussion and debate focused on the current state of affirmative action in our universities. Another new addition this year is the CHRO Anti-Bullying Event, during which the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) will be presenting on the legal effects of bullying.

“The T Word,” will provide a conversation for transgender youth to discuss their personal experiences with discrimination. The conversation will center on the recent case of Jane Doe, in which Connecticut state child welfare officials were criticized for mishandling a transgender female at a state detention center.

“Justice or Just Us?” will feature a moderated town hall discussion between local minority youth and law enforcement amidst the backdrop of police violence nationally.

On March 26th, the Law School will host its first high school moot court competition, in collaboration with the Law School’s Moot Court Board.

Finally, the grand finale will feature the return of the Second Annual YOU-Conn Law Showcase, a crowd favorite in the past, which will display talents from across campus including singing, dancing, standup comedy, and more.

All events taking place during Diversity Week will be catered, and free to attend. Event dates and descriptions are subject to change.

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Student Org Spotlight: Mock Trial Society

By Yekaterina Bychko

UConn Law hosts a variety of student organizations and clubs, many of which are focused on improving key skills later used as a practicing attorney. One such club is the Mock Trial Society (MTS), which provides a platform for students interested in trial work.

What previously was a club for those already talented and looking to hone their skill sets, is now an all-inclusive organization with a self-teaching learning model. Chris Stanton ‘16, Treasurer of the Mock Trial Society, described the organization as being “a home base for anyone interested in trial work.”

In the past year, MTS has re-vamped their organizational tree to now include scrimmage teams. This provides trial experience for an additional 45 students beyond the limited competition team positions.

Stanton stated that MTS, “want[s] to build upon the enthusiasm we see each Fall in the 60 plus 1Ls that participate in the Davis competition. Our goal is to engage and aid all students interested in trial work and provide an avenue of competition and growth, all while representing UConn Law at regional and national competitions.”

Where will the Davis Mock Trial Competition go in the years to come? The Executive Board has began reaching out to local firms and using local attorneys as coaches. The goal for next year is to continue fostering those relationships to grow an even stronger organization. Not only does it increase MTS’s competitive edge, the experience creates lasting connections between students and local trial attorneys.

The Mock Trial Society hopes to become a core piece of every student’s experience at UConn Law.

The Key to Understanding the Keynote Speaker: The Aftermath of Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal’s Symposium

By Sidd Sinha

When Dr. Amy Wax presented her case at the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal’s (CPILJ) Symposium on disparate impact last month, there were several rattled audience members afterwards. Wax’s presentation was titled “Chasing the Unicorn” and challenged the rhetoric of having programs that were used to benefit minorities. Her data suggested that the efforts that are taken for any programs that help the disadvantaged demographics are not efficient. The most controversial parts of the presentation focused on Wax’s theory that there is no need for disparate impact programs and that the resources used for assisting the underrepresented demographics were essentially being wasted.Seemingly uncomfortable, several individuals left the symposium during this particular discussion.

The CPILJ Editorial Board responded to private messages from those concerned after the symposium. Wax has an outstanding résumé that features impressive academic successes across highly-accredited, Ivy League universities. The decision to have her as the keynote speaker was made by CPILJ’s Symposium Editors, who wanted to have a fair representation of all the various perspectives on the topic.

Professors Dalié Jiménez and Jill Anderson put together a brown bag lunch to discuss any concerns that may have arisen from the Symposium. The lunch took place about a month after the Symposium and went over any issues that were still lingering amongst the law school community. Deans, professors, students, members of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), and administration from the UConn-Storrs campus came to discuss some of the flaws in Wax’s arguments.

While a common theme was reviewing Wax’s inability to correctly answer questions about housing laws in Connecticut and dismissal of studies raised to show incorrect assumptions in her presentation, a more profound message came from the lunch. It was clear that Wax had an unpopular view but the larger issue was an underlying skill law students ought to learn in their advanced education: refuting arguments with poise, composure, and data.

CPILJ is hoping to get a full article from Wax and intends to publish a response paper detailing the gaps and assumptions that Wax put forth, which may have been articulated well, but do not contribute to any fair study of how to approach improvements that may be needed in the disparate impact model. While there are studies to support Wax’s case, the basis for her work was not presented clearly enough with information that was credible. CPILJ was glad to have attention brought to the issue and considers the event a success.

More information on Wax’s study and upcoming activities for CPILJ can be found at http://cpilj.com/.

 

Law Review Hosts Annual Symposium on Privacy

By Nina Pelc-Faszcza

On Friday November 14th, 120 individuals from UConn Law and the outside community gathered in Starr Reading Room for the annual Connecticut Law Review fall symposium, organized by Law Review Symposium Editors Laura Ann Keller ’15 and Elizabeth O’Donnell ‘15. This year’s symposium was in honor of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case in the realm of individual privacy rights, Griswold v. Connecticut.

Griswold, a case in which the Court held unconstitutional a Connecticut statute that outlawed the use of contraceptives, is regarded as the first case in a line of Supreme Court decisions acknowledging and upholding a constitutional right to privacy. The response to the symposium was overwhelming, especially given the increasing public concerns regarding individual privacy and the Supreme Court’s recent decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which involved mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives.

The event was comprised of three panel discussions and a keynote address, all presented by prominent law professors and legal scholars from across the county who are experts in their respective fields. The first panel focused on the history of the right to privacy, including discussions on the evolution of sexual and reproductive privacy law in the United States as well as the centrality of wealth and class discrimination to that dialogue. Things then took a turn with the day’s second panel on privacy as sexual autonomy, with discussions of assisted reproductive technologies and Professor Susan Schmeiser’s surprising yet entertaining and informative presentation on the implications of privacy rights on “public sex” undercover sting operations in male public restrooms.

Professor Reva Siegel of Yale Law School presented the symposium’s keynote address, focusing on the extent to which Griswold has become entrenched in constitutional law. Siegel explained that not only did Griswold pave the way for later seminal cases in the area of constitutional privacy rights, but also that Griswold (and its progeny) has highly influenced, and may continue to influence, the current makeup of the Supreme Court. Siegel emphasized the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, whose nomination to the bench was rejected by a senate vote of 42-58. Bork was, non-incidentally as Siegel argued, against the progressive, pro-privacy principals pronounced in Griswold and its progeny and vowed to overturn the Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In contrast, the successful nominee after Bork, now-current Justice Anthony Kennedy, firmly supported privacy rights and specifically endorsed the principles set forth in Griswold.

The day wrapped up in the afternoon with a panel on privacy as reproductive freedom, a discussion that turned into another surprising but informative presentation on intrauterine devices and the negative impacts of contraceptive restrictions on teen pregnancy and the health of women and the public generally. The event closed with a presentation by Professor Kim Buchannan, originally from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and a current Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at UConn. Picking up on the teen pregnancy theme, Buchannan discussed the different implications of teen pregnancy among economic classes, and argued that society might be better off if the government focused on creating policies that foster greater economic mobility for lower classes and encouraging sexual autonomy for people of all ages.

Students and faculty agree that the privacy symposium was a success, and we all look forward to more stimulating Law Review symposiums in the future.

SBA Budget Committee Responds to Student Organization Budget Demands by Proposing an Increase in Student Activity Fees

By Madiha Malik

Amidst criticism regarding student organization budget allocations, on Tuesday November 18th, the SBA unanimously voted to approve further exploration of increasing the student activity fee, which students pay each semester to the SBA for allocate to student organizations. The current student activity fee is $82 per semester and the SBA is hoping to increase the fee by $8 to $90. SBA President Jim Anderson stated inflation and the increased enrollment on campus as reasons for the need for an increased fee. According to a Facebook post on behalf of the SBA Budget Committee, the proposed $8 increase will make an additional $4,000 available for student organizations.

The budget allocation process has been recently criticized for lack of transparency. In response to this criticism, the SBA Budget Committee urges student leaders who have any issues with their budgets to be proactive and communicate their issues to Budget Committee members. “It’s difficult to address concerns if we’re not aware of them,” said SBA Chief Financial Officer Joseph Brown.

Budget Committee member Laura Ann Keller reminds organization leaders that students who are not satisfied with their budget allocations should attend the budget allocation meeting and make their concerns known. At the initial meeting when the Budget Committee decides allocation amounts to organizations, meeting minutes are taken and votes are recorded. All of this information is available to students, according to Keller, but students do not take advantage of these resources.  “At least some portion of the complaints that we’ve gotten are from people who didn’t make an effort to address this upfront at all,” said Anderson. The budget allocation meeting, according to Anderson, was open to all students, regardless of their position or affiliation with any organization.

Members of the Budget Committee also encourage student groups to seek out supplemental budget allocations. After initial allocations, $5,215.17 was available to be allocated for supplemental requests. The Budget Committee understands that not all events can be planned three months in advance, when student organization budgets are due. “We denied a lot of events because they were not planned out at all and then we gave them the money when they came back with a supplemental budget,” said Keller.

Anderson cited the Energy and Environmental Law Society as one such organization that received more interest than expected from their career panel. The group submitted a supplement budget request and was approved to have the budget increased for that event. Still, according to Brown, there have not been enough supplemental budget requests made.”We want to encourage club leadership to communicate with us throughout the semester as new needs and new opportunities arise,” said Brown.

Looking to the Spring semester, the Budget Committee advises student organizations to plan ahead for their events and provide details on the budget submissions. Additionally, Brown is planning on holding a meeting for organization leaders to explain the budgeting process and address questions in attempt to provide more transparency.