January 28, 2019

CUA Law hosted The Hot Topics Roundtable event entitled "A Conversation About Bias." The January 23 event, invited members of the law school community to share their thoughts about recent events involving racial bias in a respectful atmosphere.

President of BLSA Onyinyechi Onungwa (3L) provided opening remarks and introduced the student moderators. "I would like to thank Dean Crowely, Professor Duggin, and Professor Brustin for their assistance in coordinating this discussion. The purpose of the Hot Topics series to openly and candidly discuss some the most pressing social and legal issues of our time in order to promote greater understanding of those issues and create positive change," she said.

Guided by Gemma Forest (3L) and Willie Burden (3L) the hour-long discussion encouraged students to ask questions, offer insights, and explore what they can do, as future lawyers, to deal with challenging issues. There were a variety of opinions expressed throughout the discussion dealing with racial bias. The group showed several recent viral videos dealing with racial bias at Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Lincoln Memorial. The group also showed a hidden camera video of minority customers being required to prepay for their meal at a restaurant.

The moderators asked the audience about their initial reactions to these videos. One question that Burden posed the audience was: "Should a third party stand up in situations where implicit bias could exist?"

"I would have like to say that I would have intervened based on my passion for addressing injustice...I think more people need to feel comfortable to point out when something is not right," one student said.

The audience was also asked if they ever been in a situation as an employee where they felt that they could or could not take action.

"I think employees do not get enough training. The employers need to provide this training...I think we can do a lot more," one audience member said.

"We should use these situations to become aware of our own biases and to have the tough conversations. We need to get to know people who are different from us," another student said.

"If we are ever to truly progress as Americans, as a CUA Law school community, as lawyers and advocates for justice, we must take the time to discuss and unpack these situations in order to successfully build lasting behaviors and habits that manage these unconscious biases," a moderator said.

The audience agreed that having more communication and dialogue was a step in the right direction. Students agreed that more training from employers, parents and schools is necessary in order to recognize and combat implicit racial bias.

The Hot Topics Roundtable talks are part of an effort to help the CUA Law community come together from time to time to examine the law in the context of pressing social issues. This event was co-sponsored by the Black Law Students Association, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, and the Office of Student Affairs.