Dean Miles's Letter to the Community on Recent Events

Dear Students,

Recent events in Minnesota, in our own city, and across the nation disturb and anger us all. It is a particularly hard moment for our country. The brutal killing of George Floyd and repeated similar deaths of other African-Americans, the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic turmoil, and the upheavals in many cities, including our own, present profound questions about law, justice, and race.

These incidents of police brutality and other forms of systemic racism are insidious and unacceptable. At the University, we hold a deep commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. The Provost has reaffirmed the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the Law School shares that commitment.

The hardships of injustice and the impact of recent events are not the same for all. Black people and other people of color in our community—our colleagues and friends—are experiencing particular fear and anguish at this time. At the heart of the University’s values of intellectual inquiry and free expression is a respect for each individual and a belief that each person has a distinctive experience, background, and perspective to share that enriches our community. This dedication produces knowledge of lasting value and influential leaders. At this moment, we all must be especially prepared to listen to one another with empathy and an offer of support. Although we are physically distant from each other now, our tight-knit community should be a powerful source of strength to each of us.

As we are lawyers and law students, it is a distinctive moment for us. Society relies on the rule of law to correct and prevent injustices and ensure fairness. It is difficult at this time for many to believe that law and legal institutions have the capacity to make our society more fair and just. Yet, these events should inspire a renewed sense of dedication to equal justice under law. It is lawyers and leaders of legal institutions who have the ability to turn the deep frustration and urgent calls for change into actual improvements in our legal system. The need for lawyers dedicated to justice is great: in upholding the constitutional right to assemble and speak, championing improvements in the criminal justice system, protecting order, enforcing antidiscrimination law, and in so many other ways. Legal change happens because of lawyers. I look forward to what our graduates and students will accomplish in restoring public trust and advancing equal justice under law.

The Law School’s commitment to serious inquiry on law and legal institutions means that we have leading experts in policing, criminal justice, and race & the law on our faculty. Deputy Dean Richard McAdams and I will convene a virtual conference next week on police violence that will be open to all students. I look forward to sharing the details with you shortly. I am also investigating the possibility of a longer series of talks with faculty regarding their policing research, and these events would available to all students, too.

We seek to support our students at this difficult moment. You received a message recently from Dean Todd and Robin Graham with resources that I hope you will utilize if you need them. You also received an introduction from Nydia María Stewart, who I am thrilled has joined us as our Director of Diversity and Inclusion. We are here for you.

We all share the responsibility of maintaining an inclusive community that embraces our differences. I hope that this will be a moment when we will come together to support our diverse community, lift up the knowledgeable voices in our midst, and improve our world.


Tom Miles