Dean’s Statement on Diversity and Respect for Others

Originally published in FlaLaw August 23, 2005

Our college’s Vision and Mission Statement succinctly states our aspirations at the Levin College of Law. We are “dedicated to advancing human dignity, social welfare and justice through knowledge of the law,” and we are committed to “excellence in educating professionals, advancing legal scholarship, serving the public, and fostering justice.” To these ends, we have assembled an exceptional faculty, staff, and student body who are committed to teaching, learning, and scholarship. Our community has energy and vitality, and it is talented and diverse. We take pride in the fact that a variety of backgrounds, opinions, and viewpoints are represented in our community; indeed, in an educational institution like ours, this diversity is important because we learn much from each other.

A vigorous, vibrant community is essential if we are to provide a high-quality educational environment where students can acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their careers and where faculty can teach and produce quality scholarship that serves the public and fosters justice. Building a strong community among persons who are different is not always easy. But our differences, whether based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, life experience, or something else, provide excellent opportunities for us to learn about other people, our nation and world, and ultimately ourselves.

Notwithstanding our differences, there exist core values to which each and every member of our community should be committed. We respect the dignity and value the rights of each member of our community. We expect honesty, integrity, and fair dealing in our relationships. We expect each member of the community to pursue excellence in one’s work. We expect each of us to be responsible, and to be held accountable, for one’s actions and conduct. In our studies as law students, our teaching and research as faculty members, and ultimately our service as practicing lawyers, we routinely deal with controversial questions of great significance on which public opinion is deeply divided. Because as legal professionals we are expected to deal responsibly with conflict, it is incumbent upon us to respect opposing opinions and viewpoints even as we debate issues openly and vigorously. To these ends, within our community we do not practice and we do not tolerate harassing or threatening behavior, intimidation, abuse of authority, the use of degrading language toward any person or any group, impeding any community member’s right to communicate one’s ideas simply because we disagree with the content, or lack of civility toward those with opposing views.

As members of the legal profession, we have a special obligation to assist our society in dealing with injustice and unfair treatment of individuals. As members of a law school community, as our Vision and Mission Statement urges, we are expected to fulfill this obligation in our interactions with others in the college and our university. We are also expected to do our utmost to promote an environment that encourages full participation by all of its members in learning, discussion, and intellectual argument. At the law school, we need to be the leaders in setting an example in community building for the greater university, so that the university will set the best example possible for our society. It is through efforts like these in our relationships with each other that great change in the world around us becomes possible.

- Robert H. Jerry, II
Dean; Levin, Mabie and Levin Professor