April 18, 2024

Dozens of law students at Dalhousie University walked out of class on Thursday in an act of solidarity with peers who have voiced experiences of ongoing racist comments from a classmate.

“It’s our duty as the future lawmakers of our society to step out and speak out,” said first-year Schulich Law student Lorenze Cromwell.

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After a nearly two-hour discussion between students and law faculty members, Cromwell addressed the crowd of future lawyers.

“We need to hold our heads high and be proud of the fact that we aren’t going to take this sitting down today,” Cromwell said. “We’re not going to take this sitting down tomorrow, the week after that. But this is the ongoing battle against systemic injustice.”

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Dalhousie Indigenous Law Student Association member Danielle Hargreaves says she and her colleagues have been dealing with microaggressions since starting the law program in September.

“The students are standing in solidarity, the faculty is standing in solidarity, now the school itself needs to stand with us as well and make real, lasting change,” said Hargreaves.

While discrimination is mentioned in the Dalhousie code of student conduct, Hargreaves calls the university’s lack of swift response to the comments “disturbing.”

“Frankly, (the code of conduct) needs to be updated to reflect the values ​​of the Weldon tradition, and Dalhousie as a whole. That racism will not stand up,” Hargreaves said. “It will not stand in the legal profession, it will not stand in the law school, and it will not stand in the university.”

A statement to Global News from the dean of the Schulich School of Law states that “the law school takes any issues related to racist behavior, and the need to address it, very seriously.”

“The law school is engaging in conversation to reach the goal of a safe, discrimination-free learning environment.”

Law students met with faculty members for nearly two hours to discuss how to address concerns around ‘ongoing racist comments.’

Megan King/Global News

Some attendees of Thursday’s meeting between students and faculty staff described the meeting as “redundant.”

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“We’re just getting a lot of ‘we’ll look into it,’ but this is something that has been ongoing since October and should have been being looked into,” said Hargreaves.

She says no solutions or promises to come out of Thursday’s meeting.

“What we need is a deep, meaningful apology and clear, transparent steps about what will be taken,” Hargreaves said. “Not only to address the issues that have happened here today and for the past several months, but in order to prevent people like this from getting their feet on the ground here in the first place.”

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Dal Law students have created a list of ideas to improve response efforts to discrimination when it does occur, offering suggestions that include adopting professional standards, a mandatory undertaking upon admission and/or providing the authority for faculties to make quick decisions that would protect the safety of others when complaints are filed.

Additionally, the students are asking for more transparency in the response process when complaints relating to racism and discrimination are filed, and an appeals process.

The group says that it does wish to see the case head to the school’s senate, with changes made by the school as a whole.

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