How much can a student group accomplish in a year? Quite a bit, if the Women of Color Collective (WOCC) is your model.
Last spring a group of friends at Boalt Hall decided to form WOCC to combat the isolation and alienation they felt as women of color in the law school. Their first effort—to be an active presence during admit week—was a huge success. This fall, thanks in large part to WOCC’s work, Boalt welcomed the largest number of incoming women of color students in its history.
WOCC’s numbers have grown to include 60-80 active members, and the scope of its activities has kept pace. In addition to organizing a series of community building events, the organization has embarked upon a more focused spring campaign to educate people about the underrepresentation of women of color on the law school faculty. While women of color constitute 25% of Boalt’s student body, they comprise just 5% of its tenure-track faculty.
To draw attention to women of color in the legal profession, and particularly those in academia, WOCC has organized a series of amazing events for Women’s (Her)story month. For the kick-off event on March 1, they invited women and women of color faculty and alumna to share their stories about breaking barriers at Boalt. Speakers included an alumna who wrote Silence at Boalt Hall, a book about the history and impact of Proposition 209, and two female professors who filed a sexual discrimination grievance against the University after their initial tenure applications were denied. For many participants, this panel was a clear reminder that the challenges facing women in the legal profession, and especially women of color, are not a thing of the past, but an ongoing issue.
The final women’s history month event, which will be held this Wednesday, March 31, is a lunchtime paper talk, followed by a small tea. In the law school, the Faculty Appointment Committee (FAC) makes all hiring decisions and often chooses to interview a very small number of people of color, hiring even fewer. To draw attention to the talented people of color in the applicant pool, WOCC has invited two distinguished women of color professors from USC and UNLV to present their scholarship. (Even before this event, WOCC had already made its mark on this year’s hires. In part because of WOCC’s input to the FAC and its outreach to candidates, the FAC extended offers to four people of color. Three have already accepted, thereby bringing the total junior faculty of color to five and doubling the number of junior women of color.)
It’s not too late to participate in WOCC’s Women’s (Her)story Month campaign. Attend “The Difference Women of Color Make” Wednesday, March 31 in 240 Boalt Hall from 12:45-1:45 pm. This paper talk will be followed by tea with the visiting scholars from 3:30-5:00 in 10 Boalt Hall. If you’re interested in staying informed about WOCC’s activities in the future, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.