U of C law faculty alters admissions to combat under-representation of Black students

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The change was advocated for by the Calgary Chapter of the Black Law Students Association after worldwide demonstrations erupted this May following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Chapter president and U of C second-year law student Keshia Holloman said the calls to action to the school were intended to spark change that would help reduce barriers for prospective students.

“People often think that it will be empowering, to be the only one or to be the first one, but in a realistic sense it’s not always the case,” Holloman said. “It’s an isolating feeling and, when you’re isolated, you’re much less likely to achieve the things you would have if you had a community of support around you.

“If you don’t see yourself in a place, you’re much less likely to even apply to be in that place.”

The law school’s new application process will go into effect for the fall 2021 cohort of students and will include a question asking applicants if they identify as Black.

If the applicants say yes, they may write an optional personal essay detailing their experiences with race, including the effect of racism on them or their family. Their application will also be reviewed by a members secondary committee that includes Black law school faculty and Black members of Calgary’s legal community.

Valestuk said admission to the law faculty remains a merit-based process with a competitive GPA requirement.

“We are hoping to build trust with the Black community that we are an accommodating and welcoming community that they can thrive in,” she said. “We do not feel that it will be either harder or easier for a Black student to be admitted . . . Our students will be just as qualified as anyone else, but we want to give them the chance to be seen.”

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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