CUNY Law School was founded in 1983 by activist attorneys with a vision of creating a law school focused on public interest – law in the service of public need. Since then, it has been a pillar of the New York City public interest legal community, sending graduates out to do great things. The school attracts many different kinds of students, all of whom have some alignment with “public interest.” Even as that varies, and as the school changes over time, a core of radical activists continue to be drawn to CUNY Law because of the promise of a truly progressive legal education.
Why archive student activism? CUNY Law prides itself on being a leader in progressive legal education, but it is not always clear how that happened. Often, it has been the students who have pushed the institution to do things it was loathe to do, only for the institution to later claim credit as if it just arrived at a progressive stance. Sometimes, too, students have gotten private relief, such as academic reinstatement, with the help of student activism; this should never predicate on whether someone knows to ask for help or not.
This is necessarily incomplete, especially from the earlier days of CUNY Law. Hopefully it will fill out over time, or perhaps become yet another incomplete archive project but one that brings together one slice of things that have happened here to help future archivists have a little less to do.