Message from Dean Pratt, June 16, 2020

Dear Washburn Law Community,

The past few months have been exceptionally challenging for higher education and our law school is no exception. As we begin the summer season, we continue to work to meet the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic. We have worked with the Washburn department of Human Resources to identify employees with a medical need to continue to work remotely, we have submitted a report to the ABA Council on Legal Education reporting how we managed the shift to remote instruction in March, and we have developed an academic plan for the delivery of courses this fall. We are planning to have in-person instruction this fall with social distancing in place in the classrooms. However, we understand that some students, due to health and safety concerns, will need to participate in all their classes remotely. Consequently, we administered a survey to current students and newly admitted students to determine which students needed to participate in all their coursework remotely.

Thanks to the help of our Alumni Association and the University, we are purchasing equipment that will enable us to broadcast every class session to remote participants via the Zoom platform. We have tested the classroom equipment and we are pleased with our ability to deliver both in-person and remote instruction to students this fall.

Presently, we are working to prepare for a safe return to campus. We have submitted our proposed plan for reopening the law school building to the vice president for academic affairs, and we have met with the director of facilities to request minor modifications to our building to make workspaces as safe as we can for employees. Our hope is that we will implement a staged return to the building with the first group of employees returning on July 20, 2020.

It is also our hope that we can start to engage with our alumni in person starting in July with a CLE event in Deadwood, South Dakota. If you are ready to get out of the house, join us July 18-20 at the Lodge at Deadwood and learn about technology and law practice, attorney wellness, gun trusts, and indigenous perspectives on the Black Hills. Cloth masks with the Washburn Law logo and hand sanitizer will be provided to all attendees, and we will practice social distancing to keep everyone healthy. There is still time to register, so if you want to join us register today.

In addition to coping with the pandemic, we are collectively grieving the murder of George Floyd and working to support students during this time. The University provided support to students who organized a unity march and a student forum to discuss racial justice in our nation and race relations at Washburn. The University also held a listening event where students shared their experiences at Washburn and identified the need for improving cross-racial understanding among the various constituent groups at the University.

After listening to the student comments, we know that we have much work to do, and we are committed to doing that work. At the law school, our faculty took a first step by unanimously adopting a resolution acknowledging "the incessant, systemic, and perpetual racial and societal injustices in this country , which have been passed on from generation to generation," and re-committing the law school to do its part "to challenge systemic racial subordination and exclusion in the justice system." You can find the full resolution on the law school website in a new section of the website that we are calling our Racial Justice Repository. There you will find resources for learning more about the social construct of race and its intersection with law. I want to thank all alumni who sent resources to us to include in this repository with special thanks to Angel Zimmerman who donated a significant amount of time to assembling many of the resources that you will find in the repository.

Additionally, Washburn University School of Law is raising funds for a scholarship to support a student who seeks to do work promoting racial justice after graduation. We join many law schools across the country in naming a scholarship for a black person whose life was ended by police action in the city or state where the law school is located. The Topeka community suffered the loss of 30-year-old Dominique Tyrell White on September 28, 2017. Dominique was a Topeka native who attended Topeka Public Schools. He was a devoted father to four children and is survived by them, his parents Kelly White and Theresa Wynne, and other extended family. The law school hopes that the Dominique T. White Scholarship for Racial Justice will be a step toward healing, and that the work of the law students who receive the scholarship will help our nation continue its march toward justice for all. Your donation will support this scholarship.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard from hundreds of people nationwide, including many of you, who emailed me to share your frustration with racial injustice in our country, and your hope for a better tomorrow. I thank each of you for reaching out to me and I apologize if I have not had a chance to respond to your message. I want you to know that I appreciate your outreach, and that Washburn Law is committed to doing its part to enhance the quality of justice in Kansas and our nation.

Sincerely yours,

Carla D. Pratt

Photograph: Dean Carla D. Pratt.

Carla D. Pratt

Dean Pratt talks about the impact education has had on her life and how law has a role in shaping higher education (3:43 minutes).
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Dean Pratt talks to "TopLawSchools" about Washburn Law's student life, academics, admissions process, career opportunties, employment outcomes, and more.