Dean’s View – Spring 2023

Photo of UW Law School Dean Daniel Tokaji, smiling and wearing a suit with a Bucky Badger tie
Daniel Tokaji

Welcome to another exciting edition of our Gargoyle magazine.

We’ve got so many gems in this edition, and I can’t wait for you to read about all the wonderful ways University of Wisconsin Law School is shaping narratives.

Under the direct supervision of clinical faculty and on-site tribal lawyers, students gain rare, first-hand experience working in the Native Nations legal community through our Native Nations Externship Program. In the Fall 2022 semester, enrolled students put our Law-in-Action mission at the forefront, working with several Native Nations in Wisconsin and out-of-state tribes, legal non-profits and governmental offices. You can read more about this incredible learning and service opportunity in the “Tribal Law in Action” piece.

In November 2022, we honored our commitment to building community with Wisconsin’s Native Nations during a special ceremony. Native Nations with ancestral ties to Wisconsin presented their flags, thanked their veterans and celebrated with drum group performances. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible, and to Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin for making time to join us for this momentous occasion. You can see photographs from the ceremony in our “In Focus” segment.

In this edition, we also look at the Law School admissions process. I’m sure many of you remember that exciting time in your legal journey, but you may not know that so much has changed in admissions. In our featured article, “Welcome to Admissions,” hear from Associate Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid Rebecca Scheller about seven ways admissions has changed and the five ways it could be further shaped in the near future.

Last fall, the Law School hosted a 50-year reunion celebration. While we were thrilled to host all our returning students, what we didn’t expect was to hear such fascinating stories of political unrest from decades ago. We knew we had to do something with this incredible material, so we spoke with some of our alumni and faculty about their Law School memories during the Vietnam War era. It was a contentious time, and Madison was no exception. Students and faculty openly expressed their views, sometimes clashing with public authorities during protests on campus and downtown. I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on their memories and lasting lessons captured in the article, “Sights, Sounds and Emotions.”

Also in this edition, we’re highlighting the excellent work of several of our faculty, including Assistant Professor Joshua Braver, who recently published a book exploring the perils and promises of illegal constitution-making by “the people.” It’s fascinating research, and I hope you’ll check out his book. You can learn more about that in our piece, “We, the Mediated People.” Also highlighted in this edition is the work of Anuj Desai, Volkman-Bascom professor of law, who, since September 2022, has been working at the Office of the General Counsel in the Office of Management and Budget, part of the Executive Office of the President. It’s exciting work Professor Desai is doing, and I encourage you to learn more about it in “UW Law Lives … in the Executive Office of the President.”

The cover of the Spring 2023, Volume 46.1 issue of the Gargoyle alumni magazine. The cover is a composite image of photographs and text blocks containing images of student protests from the Vietnam War era.Within this edition, we’ve got a lot of other wonderful treats as well, including interviews with Geraldine Hines ’71 and Jim Sensenbrenner ’68, whose achievements are now on display at Alumni Park on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. The park boasts more than 50 museum-quality outdoor exhibits, and more than 120 UW alumni are honored and celebrated there. You can read their interviews in “I jumped in with both feet” and “A Workhorse in Congress” respectively.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to update you on a late-breaking development, just before this issue went to press. After careful study, UW Law decided to join dozens of other law schools in withdrawing from the U.S. News & World Report survey. We concluded that the values underlying the U.S. News ranking do not align with our mission and goals, including our long tradition of making a world-class legal education affordable to everyone with the capacity to excel as lawyers and leaders.

We made this decision after consulting with campus leadership, faculty, staff, student representatives and our alumni board of visitors. Briefly, we see three big problems with the U.S. News ranking as presently constructed. First, it contravenes our mission of providing an outstanding legal education at an accessible price so our graduates can pursue any career path they choose. Second, it unfairly penalizes Wisconsin for its diploma privilege, undermining our core value of equal access to the legal profession. Third, the ranking is not a reliable source of information for prospective students deciding which law school is the best fit for their needs and interests.

While U.S. News has said it will continue to rank law schools regardless of whether their surveys are returned, we hope that the developments of the past months will lead to meaningful improvements in its methodology and to the creation of alternative measures of law school quality across multiple domains. That would lead to better informed choices by students considering careers in law, improve the quality of legal education, and enhance the positive impact that law schools have on society as a whole.

Thanks to all of you who have supported the Law School financially over the past year. We depend upon our alumni and other friends giving back to keep the great opportunities we offer accessible to the next generation of lawyers and leaders. We are, as always, eternally grateful.

On, Wisconsin!

Daniel P. Tokaji
Fred W. & Vi Miller Dean and Professor of Law