College of Law Introduces Cultural Competency Curriculum


In May 2021, Dean Boise shared two important developments addressing efforts to achieve a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable law school community. 

First, following recommendations by the Curriculum Committee and the Inclusion Council (formerly the Inclusion Initiatives Committee), a new three-pronged Cultural Competency Curriculum will be launched in fall 2021, applicable to all students beginning with the Class of 2024. 

The new curriculum consists of:

  1. A diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) primer module for Orientation and JDinteractive residencies.
  2. A 1L DEI Summer Initiative to develop themes and materials that will become part of the 1L curriculum.
  3. A graduation requirement, applicable to students beginning with the Class of 2024, which may be satisfied by selecting a cultural competency-related course from a list of existing courses and new courses to be developed. 
Hon. Sandra Townes L'76
Hon. Sandra Townes L’76

Second, the new Hon. Sandra L. Townes L’76 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Resource Center will open in the fall 2021. Named for the pioneering jurist and educator—who was the first Black woman appointed as a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York— the Center will be located in the Susan K. Reardon L’76 Room in Dineen Hall’s Law Library.

Developed in coordination with the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the Center will be a space for students and faculty to convene and curate resources for sharing, experiencing, and actualizing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the College and in the law profession.

“We envision the center to both serve as a space to promote diversity and cultural competence and a safe space for minority students to engage with one another,” says rising 3L Mazaher Kaila, 2021-2022 Student Bar Association President, who was President of BLSA in 2020-2021. “The Student Resource Center will begin as an extended library space where students can access computers, printers, whiteboards, and books, as well as hold discussions and plan events. Our vision is for this Center eventually to offer student advising, mental health support, support for students with disabilities, and training and other tools essential for reaching diversity and inclusion goals.”

Professor Meléndez Named Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion

Professor Suzette Meléndez
Professor Suzette Meléndez

Dean Boise has appointed Professor Suzette Meléndez as Syracuse Law’s first Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion. 

“In this position, Professor Meléndez will work with me and across the entire College to lead ongoing efforts to foster a learning community that seeks to address and eradicate racism and other forms of discrimination, that values and builds on our community’s diversity, and that equips our students with the cultural competence necessary to function effectively and ethically in 21st-century legal practice,” says Dean Boise.

In doing so, Professor Meléndez will draw and continue upon her work as Chair of the Inclusion Council, which will continue to meet regularly to evaluate the College climate and make recommendations for actions to create and sustain inclusivity. In addition to her new duties, Professor Meléndez will continue her teaching in the area of Family Law.