Diversity and inclusion are being questioned at the University of Memphis School of Law after a professor submitted his resignation letter. “To me, there`s nothing encouraging until we can support black full professors in the plural,” Allen said. “The setting is great. The university hired black professors. They couldn`t keep them. It`s for me when I can say, “Aha, progress has been made.” The professor says what she saw is part of the reason why systemic racism persists. Sova McCabe, who remains a law professor at the AU, also took up her new post last Saturday. As for representation among law professors, Allen cites the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Ole Miss, each with a few black women on the faculty as full professors. Data on the tenure of black law professors is not reported by a single organization, according to a recent report in the American Bar Association Journal. Anecdotal data points to some possible changes: In a two-week period this spring, four universities announced black women as law school deans, according to the Faculty Lounge, a college website. Allen was promoted to full professor, the highest rank, in early 2021, during his eleventh year at law school. Promotion and tenure processes are quite lengthy and require references and multiple academic and professional qualifications determined by each school, as well as voting rounds and approvals from other faculties, university administrations and university boards. Of the 630 permanent or tenure-track faculty members of the university in 2020, 204 have reached the top rank of full professor.
Of these, 17 are black. None of the law school tenured professors in 2020 were black. UHR: University of Memphis School of Law Professor Resigns Over Alleged Racial Bias To justify his decision to move to Fayetteville, Allen mentioned by name in a phone interview Thursday the former deans of the AU School of Law as well as his “fantastic experience” in 2016 as a visiting professor at AU. The law school never had a woman of color who attained the rank of full professor. So it was particularly annoying that the provost had proposed and the dean sat quietly while the provost suggested that he favored David and me by approving our requests. I deserve my promotion. As I have indicated in my external review letters, I have met the standard not only here but also in many graduate law schools. If the provost had read my letters, he would have been aware of it. I have downplayed my accomplishments throughout my life and such behavior is natural for the course, but I did not see it coming on this occasion, and I do not believe that his email to the faculty was the right remedy. Had she stayed, she would have begun the following semester as the first black woman to become a full professor, the most prestigious rank that could be attained for faculty. Her husband, now Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, was the first and now only black full professor at law school, a class he earned in 2016. The University of Memphis School of Law opened in 1962.
In her resignation letter — written, she said, “after the murder of George Floyd” — Allen, associate professor and director of faculty research, reviews several cases in which she says black candidates recognized for promotion and, in one case, for the position of dean were bypassed in favor of less qualified white candidates. In her letter, she says, “The law school has never seen a woman of colour attain the rank of full professor,” but she says the provost marshal suggested that he had done her and another colleague a favor by approving her candidacies. Law professor Alena Allen wanted to be what she hadn`t had in all her school years: a black teacher. The study did not examine the ranks of faculty from assistant to associate to full professor, with each promotion accompanied by a loss of salary and prestige. Racial profiling by a white police officer is just one of many experiences that some law students and professors at the Black University of Memphis have had to overcome. Law professor Alena Allen, who is also the wife of Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, says she`s ready to move on. Schaffzin was interim dean during research and before that a member of the law school, as well as the first faculty representative and the only attorney to serve on the first independent board of trustees at the University of Memphis, which began overseeing the university in 2017. Diversity in schools is a point of pride, with press releases listing preLaw Magazine`s “Best Law Schools in the Country for Diversity.” Last November, the school announced a diversity scholarship for students using funds from an anonymous donor, inspired by a student who attended one of Memphis` high schools.