As I sit down to write my first column for the Gargoyle alumni magazine, I’m just over a half year into my tenure as dean of this great law school. And what a year it has been so far!
While we’ve all seen more than our share of disruption, the University of Wisconsin Law School is poised to emerge from this difficult period stronger than ever. Our country has been reckoning not only with a global pandemic, but also major economic upheaval and our persistent racial injustices. UW Law has emerged as a leader in confronting and finding a way forward through these multifaceted challenges.
I’m especially proud of the adaptability and resiliency that the UW Law community has demonstrated over the past year. Our hardworking faculty and staff have developed a conversance with new technologies that allow us to deliver an outstanding legal education through a variety of means. Our students learned how to engage in virtual and hybrid learning, while adapting to the testing-and-wellness protocols that have helped minimize the spread of COVID-19 across campus.
Most important, we continued to make progress on a range of social problems. As a law school and as lawyers, we have a special duty to respond, lead, and help advance equal justice in our communities. Faced with pressing issues of democratic governance, racial equity, bioethics, technology, and so many topics, our faculty leveraged their expertise to help find solutions.
We’re also focused on making our learning environment better for all our students. That includes the top-notch experiential training that our seventeen clinics and externships provide. Throughout this academic year, we’ve held a series of town halls on racial justice, worked to develop a strategic plan that we intend to implement this year, and moved to bring our patented Law in Action approach to learning into the digital age.
As you’ll see throughout this issue, our faculty are leading the way in thoughtfully addressing society’s most complex legal and social issues. Our two most recent faculty hires, Joshua Braver and Franciska Coleman, are both rising stars in constitutional law. They examine the “packing” of the Supreme Court and the role of cancel culture, respectively. Our faculty also weigh in on the future of our democracy, after what has been one of the most unusual election cycles in memory.
Every day since I became dean, I’ve felt the love from our community — including people right here in Madison, Wisconsin, and our alumni across the state, country, and world. And UW Law’s future is brighter than ever. In the article “21 Reasons for Optimism in 2021,” you can read our faculty and staff’s hopes for the coming year.
We will need your help to move forward on all these fronts. The path forward won’t be easy, but there can be no doubt that UW Law’s students, staff, faculty, and alumni have what it takes to advance the ideals of the UW Law School and make the world a better and more just place.
Daniel P. Tokaji
Fred W. & Vi Miller Dean and Professor of Law