This is the CUNY Law student activism archive. Sorry it’s not cuter; we’re law students, not web designers.
The City University School of Law was founded in 1983 to be a law school unlike any other: focused on social justice, progressive change, and movement lawyering. From the start, CUNY Law was a practical, hands-on learning establishment. CUNY had one of the first clinic programs in the nation, and focused on practical lawyering rather than black letter law. It was a school unlike any other.
As a bastion of progressive thought, this was unquestionably great. As a law school designed to prepare students to take and pass the bar exam and join a profession not known for radicalism, it was not necessarily a great fit. From the start, CUNY turned out lawyers ready to practice; however, that did not necessarily mean lawyers who could pass the bar. Moreover, CUNY’s social justice and public interest focus meant many different things to many different people, and while the school certainly leans to the left, it is not a monolith. Serious disagreements have always existed across the campus community about how to balance a radical vision for law and the school’s self-promotion as a bastion of social justice against the very prosaic slow-moving pragmatism of any institution.
Perhaps because of its reputation as a school for the radical and movement lawyers, CUNY Law has a dedicated group of students over the years who have pushed the institution to account for its decisions, held it accountable to its institutional racism, and asked it to consider more than institutional concerns when making decisions. This site is meant to serve as an archive of at least some of this student activism over the years. Initially pulled together in Spring 2021 as a part of student organizing after the resignation of former Dean Mary Lu Bilek, it comes from a desire to build the history of the institution itself and to put many of the current struggles in context. Tenure, scholarship funding, and admissions decisions have long been contentious at this school. The churn in the student body allows this history to be lost.
A lot of the older stories are lost already, aside from those that survived in the media. Hopefully, with time, more of these will surface.
This site was initially pulled together by Ariel Federow ’21, building on previous archives assembled by Maya Kouassi ’21, JaLoni Owens ’22, and Garret Kaske ’13 (among others).