There are many affinity groups on the HLS campus. I don’t know how much history all the organizations have of getting together as one group but the other night we met for our second annual dinner. Each affinity group was allowed to send two representatives to the event. I attended on behalf of La Alianza. There were students there from BLSA, NALSA, APALSA, HALA, Lambda, SALSA, etc. The diversity committees of several different firms sponsored our meal.
It was really nice to be part of a forum where we could discuss the relationships between the different groups. As affinity groups, we share a lot of the same experiences and challenges while in law school and in the working world. As a result, we often collaborate on events where our interests intersect. For example, just this week there was a screening of the documentary, “From Swastika to Jim Crow” sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association and the Black Law Students Association. The film was followed by a discussion between members of the two groups. Representatives from these groups at the dinner said it was a huge success.
At the dinner we talked about the ways in which we can continue to sponsor events like that and how we can bring the various affinity groups together to create awareness of the need for diversity in both the faculty and the student body. One of our main concerns was being able to co-sponsor events that can be controversial in different arenas without making our memberships feel marginalized. Many of the affinity groups have agendas that are both social and political. Members are drawn to these groups for different reasons. Many of the student boards expressed a feeling of hesitation at taking on any sort of politically motivated event because they are afraid of scaring away members. This is especially true of the groups where the pool of potential members is so small that the general membership is often made up of the board.
Hearing all the students talk about how they feel about being members of a particular affinity group was beneficial. I think that every group feels frustrated at times with struggles over how to plan successful events that students will want to attend or how to make everyone in the student body feel welcome to attend. It was nice to hear that these problems were not limited to my group. Everyone offered up some examples of how they have dealt with obstacles in leadership and recruitment.
Our meeting was productive overall. We decided to put together an affinity group listserv to keep each other in the loop about events that the other groups are putting on so that we don’t hold events or conferences on conflicting dates. We also talked about the possibility of putting together a mixer for the different student groups to get together during admitted students weekend. The overall goal of this initiative is to create greater opportunities for networking among our members and to create awareness of the need for diversity on campus and in the legal profession.