The Law and Diversity Program (LDP) will graduate its last class this year. But don’t fret, all you morally conscious activists looking to change the world, the program isn’t dead. It’s just undergone a makeover. The once firmly regimented pre-law program within Fairhaven has metamorphosed into the Law, Diversity and Justice concentration (LDJ) within Fairhaven. Tacked on to the concentration is its sister, the Center for Law, Diversity and Justice.

Coordinator for the former LDP and present LDJ and the Center for Law, Teri McMurtry-Chubb explains the change was initiated in an effort to “make the program broader to be more firmly imbedded within Fairhaven.”

Referring to the Fairhaven College ideology, McMurtry-Chubb explains the newly formatted program is more intact with the Fairhaven ideals expressed in the objectives of their mission statement: “interdisciplinary study, student designed studies and evaluation of learning, examination of issues arising from a diverse society, development of leadership and a sense of social responsibility, and curricular, instructional and evaluative innovation.”

Before, the rigidity of the LDP schedule did not allow students to explore other areas of academic interest easily, and was not adaptable to non-traditional schedules. Now, as a concentration instead of a program, the LDJ concentration acts as a part of the Fairhaven interdisciplinary program in which students may explore other areas of study, integrating the LDJ piece into their degree program.

Still, the LDJ concentration retains the core curriculum of law school preparation courses, taught within Fairhaven College and other Western departments, while allowing more flexibility. The program, as before, is an integrated approach to law studies, with a focus on bringing access to the legal system to underserved communities.

According to the Law, Diversity and Justice Concentration description, “the concentration is open to all students enrolled at Fairhaven College, and endeavors to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups or who want to help underrepresented groups, and who are seeking careers in law and social justice.”

The Center for Law, Diversity and Justice acts as a support group for students in the LDJ concentration, while also engaging members of the community, inside and outside Western, into the social issues the LDJC addresses.

“The Center serves as an essential resource for pulling together the various threads of justice work taking place at Western Washington University, Fairhaven and throughout the diverse communities extending through Whatcom and Skagit counties,” said McMurty-Chubb.

The Center’s mission boasts two aspects: “a site for the continued intellectual exploration of the intersections between social justice, legal processes and a diverse society,” and “a site for the coordination of student advising and support activities for students who are in the Law, Diversity and Justice Concentration, or exploring these issues through other majors.”

The center accomplishes these objectives through two branches of programming: Thematic Programming and Ongoing Programming.
The Thematic Programming offers programs oriented around a centralized social justice theme. This quarter’s theme is immigration, winter quarter will focus on School Bullying and Harassment and Spring Quarter’s theme will be Multicultural Women, the Law and Justice.

The Thematic Programming sector allows for the LDJ concentration to collaborate with other social issues programs on campus, such as the Ethnic Student Center and the Center for Educational Pluralism, as well as community organizations, such as Whatcom Civil Rights Project.

The Ongoing Programming sector includes one work shop per quarter on “Cross-Cultural Communication, Mediation and Non-Violent Communication, and one workshop on Access to the Law, Legal System and Social Justice Careers, as well as offering a series of Brown Bag Luncheons, lunches in an intimate setting hosted by “social justice professionals” well versed on financial literacy and networking.

The program also includes visits to area law schools for LDJC students, and closes every quarter with an artistic activity. The Center will close Fall Quarter with a poetry slam.
McMurtry-Chubb is confident about the recent changes of the LDJC.

“Fairhaven students are at the forefront of activism in this community,” she said.

Though the program is designed for students ready to take on some of society’s most daunting problems through the legal system, McMurtry-Chubb focuses on the importance of communication in the face of adversity.

She asserts, “many people think education will eliminate racism. And I don’t believe that.” Instead, she believes communication abilities are essential to spurring social change.

“Fairhaven is committed to educational pluralism. We can’t hide from issues of race, gender, sexuality. I address these issues by talking about them and bringing them out of the dark. Getting people to talk about them. That our students aren’t afraid of them,” she said.

By her implementation of communication education and training within the LDJ concentration and the center’s curriculum, McMurtry-Chubb stands by her words. And I hope she’s right, and that proper communication can spur change. I guess we’ll just have to watch 2008’s graduating LDJ concentration class, and find out.