Academic journal article Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

'Truth and Reconciliation': A Critical Step toward Eliminating Race and Gender Violations in Tenure Wars

Academic journal article Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

'Truth and Reconciliation': A Critical Step toward Eliminating Race and Gender Violations in Tenure Wars

Article excerpt

We will not withhold forgiveness Even from those who do not ask. (1)


Women and other underrepresented groups have fought valiantly to render legal education inclusive regardless of one's race or gender. Clashing with a status quo denying access to individuals in underrepresented groups, they battled first just to gain admission to law schools as students and then to be admitted to the Bar. (2) The struggle continued as they also sought to be hired on the permanent faculty at various institutions. (3)

After securing faculty appointments, candidates from underrepresented groups have continued to wage tenure wars for decades, just for their survival in the academy. (4) They confront many obstacles, (5) including inconsistent application of rules and requirements, (6) micro-aggressions, (7) and overt hostilities (8) to their successes.

In other words, individuals from underrepresented groups appear to be in a war to obtain tenure and otherwise succeed at their institutions. (9) While it has been said that, "All is fair in love and war," even in war there are rules of engagement. (10) Therefore, in tenure wars, rules apply too. (11) Actually, the American Bar Association requires law schools to employ clear rules of engagement in tenure evaluations, (12) akin to how the United Nations collectively prescribes rules of war between nation states as well as punishes violations committed on the battlefield. (13) When innocent nations are attacked by illegal acts of aggression, a coalition of the willing allies within the United Nations defends against the aggression. (14) Unfortunately tenure candidates from underrepresented groups may find themselves at schools lacking such a coalition of willing allies to defend against aggression inflicted upon them. (15)

The war-like attacks during tenure bids appear to be part of a battle to maintain the racial and gender status quo of underrepresentation in the academy. (16) This resemblance to war-like assaults compelled Professor Kupenda to compare the tenure bid for women and other underrepresented groups as requiring war-like strategies in response. In Academic War Strategies for Nonviolent Armies of One, Professor Kupenda utilized lessons learned from unsuccessful military war efforts to explore how pre-tenured faculty, especially those from underrepresented groups, could improve their chances of success by seeing their preparation and application for tenure as a war-like effort. (17) Employing tactical strategies similar to those suggested by Kupenda (18) and others, (19) many have fought for tenure one decision at a time. Slowly, faculty tenure victories have increased the diversity of law faculty and brought more diverse voices into legal education. (20)

Through many tenure victories, faculty from underrepresented groups confronted various discriminatory violations (21) of the rules and surmounted struggles with gender and/or racial inequality. Just as the country adding a person of color to a high position does not make the country itself post-racial, similarly, the ivory tower is not automatically made post-racial with the addition of some faculty from underrepresented groups. While a given minority warrior may obtain tenure despite a bloody institutional war, obtaining tenure for this person does not mean that the academy, or her institution, is now welcoming. Actually, racial and gender tensions within the legal academy generally, and within legal educational institutions more specifically, continue to linger. (22)

Therefore, in this Article, the co-authors confront one of the next generation issues for underrepresented groups in legal education: what happens after tenure victories, especially for the victors in a war wrought with gender and racial inequities? Even if all is fair in love, war, and tenure battles, it remains most troubling when, even in this century, acts of racial and/or gender aggression are targeted at qualified tenure candidates. …

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