The University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School is requiring all first-year law students to attend a mandatory “re-orientation” session on Friday, Jan. 19, according to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which is demanding that the university “remove the harmful subject matter” from the meeting.
“In preparation for the session, law students are asked to study a description of ‘racist’ behaviors, including the false claim that non-discrimination is ‘racist’ and a collection of other assertions about ‘whites’ and ‘people of color’ that actually are racist,” WILL wrote in a Jan. 18 news release.
For example, the handout that was included with the WILL news release tells students, “As beneficiaries of racism and white privilege, you sometimes take a defensive posture even when you are not being individually blamed. You may personalize the remarks, not directed personally at you. It is the arrogance of your privilege that drags the focus back to whites.”
The handout repeatedly generalizes about whites, saying, “Whites are more willing and more comfortable decrying our oppression than scrutinizing our privilege.” It uses the term whites over and over again.
Read the handout here. One excerpt generalizes about white people’s beliefs about police and the court system.
Another excerpt is critical of conservative talk show legend Rush Limbaugh, telling students that quotes by him were “loaded with white people’s fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained ‘control.’ Embedded here is also the assumption that to be ‘pro-black’ (or any other color) is to be anti-white.”
The handout shared by WILL also contains this passage, “By saying we are not different, that you don’t see the color, you are also saying you don’t see your whiteness. This denies the people of colors’ experience of racism and your experience of privilege.” Another excerpt tells students, “To say people of color can be racist, denies the power imbalance inherent in racism.”
It labels the following statement as “social propaganda”: “America is the land of opportunity, built by rugged individuals, where anyone with grit can succeed if they just pull up hard enough on their bootstraps.”
“It would be one thing if the law school proposed an academic debate about such matters. But no one believes for one moment that’s what this session is about,” WILL’s release said. “This ‘DEI training’ is a form of indoctrination and demeans law students based on their race. WILL strongly condemns this meeting’s proposed subject matter and demands that any racially discriminatory instruction be removed. By pushing racist ideology on law students, the is defying federal law, creating a racially hostile environment, and harming individual student dignity.”
Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, stated, “The student body is being subject to nonsense that ignores the rule of law and true equality in favor of a racialized way of seeing the world. The United States Supreme Court has stated clearly that justice is colorblind and race-based discrimination is against our human dignity. It is distressing to see our state’s only public law school requiring students to be ‘trained’ in a set of concepts which shreds the rejection of racial discrimination that so many fought so hard to make the law of the land. We are asking the University of Wisconsin-Madison to take a serious look at the materials they just distributed to the student body and decide if this is accomplishing its core goals and mission. To us, the answer is obvious.”
WILL included the attachment it says was sent to students. It says it was written by Debra Leigh, Organizer, Community Anti-Racism Education Initiative. (A quick Google search showed the same handout on the Village of Shorewood’s website).
Skylar Croy, WILL Associate Counsel, and a former UW Law Student, stated, “There was nothing like this at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when I received my law degree from them in 2019. To see this happen to a university I love is so disappointing and for the sake of true education, we hope they reconsider discussing this subject matter during this mandatory meeting.”
A UW law school student who wanted to remain anonymous was quoted in the WILL news release. “Programs like these make me feel as if I cannot speak openly in my classes, nor with my peers,” the student said. “I do not feel that this culture promotes intellectual diversity, but rather a singular way of thinking. I should not feel ashamed that I do not choose my friends by the color of their skin. I should not feel ashamed that I believe in diversity in thought, rather than diversity in appearance. It is disheartening that this institution does not agree.”
In an email to students, Lauren L. Devine, J.D., the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin Law School, told the entire first-year student body, according to WILL’s news release, “Re-Orientation is intended to do just that – reorient you now that you have your first semester of law school behind you and a new semester ahead. Re-Orientation will include a presentation from representatives from OCPD, Financial Aid, the clinics, Academic & Student Affairs, as well as a follow-up to the DEI session you attended during Orientation.”
According to WILL, “The University stated multiple times that this ‘re-orientation’ meeting is mandatory. Students were asked to review Attachment 1 and provide responses to Attachment 2, which was titled ‘Race Timeline Worksheet.’”
“The attachments assert a racist view of the world and propagate harmful racial stereotypes,” WILL said. WILL’s news release says the materials assert the following claims, in WILL’s words:
Only white people can be racist.
Advocating for a “colorblind” society is racist and “negates” the “experiences of people of color.”
It is racist to attack affirmative action.
All white people experience “privilege based on your white skin color. You benefit from this system of oppression and advantage no matter what your intentions are.”
White people have a “fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained control.”
White people all are infected with “whiteness,” “white guilt,” “denial,” “fear,” and “privilege.”
Ridding white people of “racist conditioning” “will never happen.”
“There are no exceptional white people” such that all are tainted by skin color.
All white people are the “beneficiaries of racism and white privilege.”
White people should never talk about their “own story of hardship” because it “diminishes the experiences of people of color.”
All white people “attempt to excuse, defend or cover up racist actions of other white people.”
“The problem is obvious,” wrote WILL. “‘Training’ that asserts these racialized assertions as fact requires a universalized assumption of oppression and reduces both black and white students to archetypes—to avatars in a contrived and undefined ‘system.’ It undermines the impartiality and human dignity that our system of justice is called to uphold. It is unworthy of a law school.”