A law school professor at the University of the District of Columbia, Shelley Broderick, has allowed students who chose to travel to Baltimore to offer free legal advice for protesters to postpone their exams.
She says that for almost a year communities of color have suffered long-standing and persistent abuse from police. Broderick added in a letter to her students that the “energy and commitment” of the people involved in the movement is an inspiration and the Law School should take part in it, says Jessica Chasmar of The Washington Times.
“The situation in Baltimore is of particular concern,” she wrote. “Not only is Baltimore just 30 miles up the road, but many members of our community have roots in the City. It is important that we not ignore what is happening to our neighbors.”
She continued by giving permission to any student who would like to participate in legal support for demonstrators a delay their testing time to May 11. She suggested the organization of a student “teach-in” at which students could join in the discussion surrounding these issues and promote mutual support.
“The police accountability movement needs and will continue to need the best lawyers that we can train,” Ms. Broderick wrote. “It is our aspiration that you become the future of the legal support for the most important cases of the next generation.”
Broderick’s letter was sent on the heels of 200 arrests last week during the violence that ensued after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died a week after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody. Approximately 100 of those arrested were released on Wednesday of last week and were not charged.
Professor Broderick, Dean of the David A. Clark School of Law, told her students police relations with their communities “is the civil rights issue of our time.” In her letter, the dean told her students they should connect with one of the legal assistance groups, structure a plan for the assistance they intended to offer, and ask for help if they have difficulty identifying a group to work with, writes Susan Svrluga, reporting for The Washington Post.
According to Fox News, Broderick’s decision is not the first time a final exam has been delayed because of racial turmoil. In 2014, Columbia Law School delayed exams for students who were traumatized and disillusioned as a result of two racially-charged cases. Both involved white police officers who were not indicted in the deaths of unarmed black men. Then, students at Harvard and Georgetown asked for the same option after the grand jury decisions in Missouri, the Michael Brown case, and New York, the Eric Garner case.
“We have struggled to compartmentalize our trauma as we sit and make fruitless attempts to focus on exam preparations,” the group, which calls itself the Columbia Law School Coalition of Concerned Students of Color, wrote to administrators. “In being asked to prepare for and take our exams in this moment, we are being asked to perform incredible acts of disassociation that have led us to question our place in this school community and the legal community at large.”
Faculty members said they could not remember the last time an exam extension was allowed after a public event, wrote The Wall Street Journal. If delaying an exam was requested, the student were required to petition the dean and each situation was considered individually. At the time the Journal reported, all requests had been granted.