When the LSU Law Center’s OUTlaw student organization is active, the Admissions staff work with their membership to reach out to prospective students who have self-identified as members of the LGBTQ+ community. The recruiting staff have also attended and participated in recruitment events hosted by LGBTQ+ organizations. (The mission of OUTlaw is to create a climate at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in which it is safe and comfortable to be openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or an ally (“LGBT”).
The Law Center is committed to employing a diverse staff/faculty/administrators. The faculty committee charged with faculty recruiting is routinely comprised of a diverse group of faculty members, including diversity of both gender and sexual orientation. The committee advertises faculty positions widely, including circulation in the AALS faculty recruiting bulletins and postings on numerous blogs and LISTSERVs, and includes a statement of diversity in each. Similarly, staff and administrator positions are advertised widely through the LSU Human Resource Management Department, and also include statements of equal opportunity.
Beginning in May 2019, the Law Center entered into an agreement with the Student Health Center to employ a counselor dedicated to helping law students in particular. This counselor is housed primarily in the law building for efficient access to law students and sees only law students. This counselor has a Master’s level degree in Social Work from the LSU School of Social Work, and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Louisiana. The counselor recently attended the Safe Space training offered at LSU by The LGBTQ+ Project, a unit of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. This training explores basic LGBTQ+ terminology and ways to make language more inclusive, to identify some of the privileges of being a straight, non-transgender/cisgender person, and to discuss the coming-out process, as well as ways in which one can be a better ally to LGBTQ+ students on campus.
The LSU Law Center provides 11 gender-inclusive, single-stall restrooms in some areas of the law building. These restrooms are identified with signage displaying generic male, female, and wheelchair images, as well as raised braille lettering. These restrooms are all ADA-compliant and fully accessible. LSU does not have a formal restroom policy.
The Law Center provides funding, including travel support, to law students in accordance with state and university regulations, and in keeping with its Diversity and Inclusion Statement. Law student organizations are chartered by the Student Bar Association, and currently include the OUTlaw organization. Per the Law Center website, the mission of OUTlaw is to create a climate at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in which it is safe and comfortable to be openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or an ally (“LGBT”). OUTlaw seeks to create an atmosphere of acceptance and comfort, instill justice, and combat discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The organization exists to provide support and a sense of community while simultaneously engaging in political activism and advocacy. The organization is able to access funding for programming, which may include guest speakers, organizational meetings, and travel. In the past and when requested, the OUTlaw organization has been provided funding to send a limited number of members to the Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair. As a student-led group, the level of activity varies from one academic year to another, but the Law Center chapter has tended to be active since its founding approximately 10 years ago.
In Fall 2019, the entering first-year class received implicit bias programming focused on LGBTQ+ issues as part of a professionalism component of mandatory orientation. Also in Fall 2019, the Diversity and Professionalism Committee (comprised of faculty and student appointees) sponsored a workshop series on implicit bias. Students and faculty were invited to attend any and all workshops. The planned topics of the implicit bias workshop segments included gender, poverty, cultural, and LGBTQ+ issues. (However, the scheduled speaker for the LGBTQ+ segment had scheduling conflicts, causing that segment to be rescheduled into the Spring 2020.) While no individual segment of the workshop series focused solely on racial identity, each segment touched on intersections of bias and race. The Law Center also offers a “Fit to Practice” series to our students in the spring, a nine-part workshop series that is focused on the young attorney’s role in civil litigation case management and attorney well-being. A segment was planned for Spring 2020 that would have included a speaker on implicit bias; however, the University was closed in March due to the COVID-19 health crisis and all events were canceled.
The Louisiana State University Law Center (LSU Law Center) diligently works to be a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff in a number of ways. Many law staff and faculty have participated in Safe Space training seminars that educate us on the particular needs and perspectives of LGBTQ+ students; participants thereafter mark their offices with Safe Space stickers for easy identification. The Law Library assembles a display featuring important moments in LGBTQ+ history during Gay History Month each year. In addition, the OUTlaw student organization sponsors events and speakers on topics of interest for LGBTQ+ students throughout the school year. In the past, those events have ranged from national experts speaking on major law-related topics impacting the LGBTQ+ community to local LGBTQ+ attorneys speaking to the realities of being Out on the job market and at work.
In addition to the law school’s Statement of Nondiscrimination, the LSU Law Center has adopted a Diversity and Inclusion Statement that can be found at this URL: https://www.law.lsu.edu/students/diversity/. It reads: “LSU Law is committed to diversity and inclusion, and we believe the legal profession benefits from varied perspectives and backgrounds and is more creative and effective when its membership reflects the full spectrum of civil society. Our recognition of the value of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession commits us to the responsibility of creating and maintaining an intellectual and social climate at the Law Center that welcomes all and respects the rights, differences, and dignity of others. We strive to bring together diverse ideas, perspectives, and talents within the LSU Law community, and we welcome and support our students, faculty, and staff of different races, genders, gender identities/expressions, sexual orientations, ethnicities, national origins, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, religion, spirituality, disability, family status, experiences, opinions, and ideas. Through respect for differences, our students, faculty, and staff bring a wealth of perspectives and cultural experiences that enhance our classrooms and our ability to achieve academic excellence. We aim to create an environment where every student has the opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential, and we pride ourselves in promoting an inclusive and respectful environment for the exchange of ideas.”
During the Admissions process, admitted students receive information about all student organizations, including the OUTlaw organization.
To question #4, the Law Center does not offer the Self-ID option, but students do have the ability to identify as LGBTQ+ in their diversity statement or personal statements.
Regarding faculty and staff who have self-identified as LGBTQ+, the Law Center does not collect such information through a formal Self-ID option, but these persons have been reported in this survey based on their being “out” in their LGBTQ+ identities within the Law Center community (per questionnaire instructions). However, because the information has been gathered in this manner, we cannot answer the sub-questions to question #10, as we do not have this level of specificity.
On Employee Benefits, all employee benefits are managed by the LSU Human Resource Management office. LSU has a robust offering of benefit plans, including 7 health plans to choose from. LSU also follows all guidelines set forth by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The University treats all legally married couples the same regarding health care and other benefits, regardless of whether the marriage is between persons of different sexes or of the same sex. Domestic partnerships are not recognized by the State of Louisiana, thus no non-marital domestic partnership relationship falls within the eligibility guidelines for University employee benefits.
Following up on benefits offered to students, law students have access to counseling and therapy services offered to all students of LSU. All students may access services provided by the Student Health Center, including mental health services and treatment. The Student Health Center employs licensed professionals and graduate students from the field of clinical psychology, clinical social work, professional counseling, and psychiatry. Additionally, the LSU Office of Student Advocacy and Accountability assists students facing stress, crisis or distress and provides a range of services designed to enhance student well-being, including individual meetings with students, academic support, and referrals to other campus and community resources where applicable.
Finally, regarding policies and training available to LSU employees and students, all employees of the University, including faculty, staff/administrators, and student workers must adhere to the Violence Free Workplace policy (PS-102), which includes not only assault and battery, but also credible threats, defined as “a statement (verbal or written) or action that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the safety of him/herself or that of another person and does, in fact, cause such fear.” By this policy, employees also have a responsibility to report knowledge of inappropriate behavior that may fall under this policy. The University’s Equal Opportunity policy (PS-1) also emphasizes the commitment to provide a workplace free from discrimination and harassment and provides a mechanism for addressing complaints of such. Employees may file a grievance under the University’s grievance policy (PS-80) to seek solutions for issues arising out of working conditions, including issues of discrimination. Employees are also bound by the University’s Sexual Harassment policy (PS-73). Law students in particular are bound by the Law Center’s Code of Student Professional Responsibility, which includes prohibitions against behavior (both physical and verbal) that arises from hate/bias/discrimination based on race, gender, gender identity/expression, religious beliefs, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or age. The policies described above address sexual orientation and gender/expression where discrimination is defined within the policy. (The grievance policy does not define specific areas of grievance but rather sets forth the mechanism for filing and disposition of grievances.)