NYC Law School Makes 'Systemic Racism' Courses a Graduation Requirement

Cardozo law school revamps curriculum to focus on critical race theory, microaggressions

Cardozo School of Law dean Melanie Leslie
June 11, 2021

A top New York City law school announced Thursday that students will be required to take courses on systemic racism and critical race theory to graduate.

In an email to students, Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law laid out major curriculum changes "designed to help our students examine and understand racism in the law and throughout the legal system." Chief among the changes is that students beginning with the incoming class of 2024 must complete at least one of four newly created classes on "race and the law" in order to graduate. The four classes are Race and the Law, Critical Race Theory, Indigenous Rights in the Americas, and Cross-Cultural Negotiation.

The email further announced that "explorations of race and racism" would be integrated throughout all the school's teachings, "including in courses that are not primarily or ostensibly about race." All first-year students going forward will also be required to attend training sessions on topics such as "implicit bias" and "microaggressions."

"Cardozo is committed to training lawyers who can recognize and respond to the ways in which systemic racism impacts our world," the school wrote in the unsigned email.

The changes were spurred by the law school's dean, Melanie Leslie, who last year was one of several law school deans who wrote to the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which accredits law schools, "urging it to require that schools address bias, cultural awareness, and anti-racism," the email states.

Citing "systemic racism," Leslie is quoted in the email explaining that "the history of racism and discrimination in America is intertwined and supported by law and legal structures." Her statement adds, "As scholars and advocates, it is critical that we do our part at Cardozo to acknowledge and eradicate systemic racism; as educators, we must ensure that our graduates are culturally competent and well-educated on issues of discrimination."

The school additionally created a position of Associate Dean of Equity in Curriculum and Teaching.

Cardozo School of Law is currently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 53rd best law school in the country.