Letter from the Alumni Board

 September 26, 2017
To: Student Body, University of San Diego School of Law
From: The Undersigned Members of the Law Alumni Board of Directors
Re: Our Values
A recent op-ed piece co-authored by Professor Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law and Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law has raised concerns among members of the current student body and some alumni of USD.  The piece posits that “restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture” of the 1940s thru the 1960s, including a focus on stable marriages, education, and civic responsibility, will cure society’s ills.  The piece has caused widespread controversy and raised questions both nationally and locally about the values held by USD School of Law.  We write to affirm our values as alumni of USD, take issue with the article’s conclusions and how some have interpreted it, and espouse the importance of diversity and inclusion at our law school.  

Other authors have already detailed certain deficiencies in the Alexander/Wax piece, such as: (i) a lack of evidentiary support, (ii) a refusal to seriously grapple with the rampant racial and gender oppression that underlay the “bourgeois culture” the article promotes as a panacea for today’s ills, and (iii) blindness to the very real problems of the current era, including ongoing racial and gender discrimination.  We agree with those criticisms.  Some have also interpreted the article’s assertions as an implicit endorsement of white cultural supremacy – a world view that has no place at USD.  However, our intent today is not to dwell on the article’s deficiencies, but rather to focus on the values that we believe make USD an institution that trains lawyers to uphold the underpinnings of our American democracy.  Indeed, the underlying values the article espouses – the importance of family and stable support systems for our communities; the value of education as a means of self-improvement; and the call to serve others and be part of something bigger than ourselves – are in no way unique to the “bourgeois culture” of prior American decades.  These are American values that are common across our diverse country and these are values that USD law students and alumni live by our deeds.   

An important part of the value of education at USD is academic freedom for students and faculty to study various issues and publish research that may derive from varying points of view.  These varying points of view are essential to rigorous debate that is a cornerstone of legal education at USD.  While debate must be rigorous so that we may test each other’s convictions and pit the relative merits of one position against another, our discourse must also be respectful so that we truly hear one another.  Several students, as individuals and groups, have offered thoughtful and measured responses to the arguments advanced in the article.  We also understand that students have been engaging in civilized discussions in order to understand opposing perspectives.  These responses confirm that USD School of Law is producing legal minds of the highest caliber.  Perhaps even more importantly, they evidence future legal practitioners willing to speak out civilly but forcefully when they perceive ideas that promote racial, gender and class based oppression.  We are proud that these students will join our ranks as alumni and look forward to their contributions to the legal profession.   

We wish to thank Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo for his strong support for academic freedom as well as diversity and inclusion at USD.  As Dean Ferruolo noted, for many students, “racial discrimination and cultural subordination are not academic theories, they reflect the students’ personal experiences.” We strongly support disrupting that discrimination and cultural subordination in concrete and positive ways.  To that end, USD School of Law is proud to be the pilot law school in California to participate in the Minority Legal Education Resources program, which provides supplemental bar review programs for minority law school graduates.  Additionally, USD has recently committed to participate in the Summer Legal Institute for High School Students (“SLI”), a one-week legal immersion program for high school students.  USD is proud to help expand SLI by bringing it to San Diego.  As alumni, we are proud of our law school’s leadership in this area and support a continuation of these and similar programs.

Our country is currently experiencing unprecedented divisiveness.  We talk at each other today more than we listen to one another.  We must put an end to this atmosphere of discord, bring people together to acknowledge our differences and derive a common truth.  USD School of Law is a place of thoughtful discourse where a broad range of ideas, perspectives, students and faculty are welcome.  We are committed to ensuring that is always the case.
 Signed* –  

Name                                                                           USD Class Year
James D. Crosby, President                                       1983
Megan Donohue, President-Elect                               2009
Knut S. Johnson, Immediate Past President              1986
Marty Lorenzo, Director                                              1996
Carolina Bravo-Karimi, Director                                  2008
Joy Utomi, Director                                                     2011
Victor M. Torres, Director                                            1988
E. Scott Dupree, Director                                            1977
Matthew L. Abbot, Director                                          2015
Karin Backstrom, Director                                           1992
Beth K. Baier, Director                                                 1984
Alan H. Barbanel, Director                                           1982
Benjamin J. Coughlan, Director                                   2012
Solveig Deuprey, Director                                            1978
Buck Endemann, Director                                            2007
Dave Fox, Director                                                       2007
Nicholas J. Fox, Director                                              2011
Douglas J. Friednash, Director                                    1987
Kirsten F. Gallacher, Director                                       2012
Jonathan L. Gerber, Director                                       2007
Bridget Fogarty Gramme, Director                              2003
Christopher Hayes, Director                                        2010
Ashley T. Hirano, Director                                            2009
Alex L. Landon, Director                                              1971
Amos Alexander Lowder, Director                               2009
Jason M. Ohta, Director                                               2000
Jamie M. Ritterbeck, Director                                       2012
Noel B. Vales, Director                                                 1997
Jessica G. Wilson, Director                                          2006

* Members of the Law Alumni Board of Directors who serve as Judicial Officers have abstained from participation in this statement, in accordance with Judicial Rules of Conduct.

Alumni of USD School of Law who wish to sign their name to this letter can do so at this link.



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