School of Law Collaborative Inspires Students to Promote Racial Equity

A new SLU LAW student organization called the Justice Equity Collaborative (JEC) aims to involve legal students and alumni in its efforts to promote racial justice, equality and equity by going beyond equal opportunity and considering context.

Inaugural JEC group

The inaugural group of JEC, from left: Ericka Simpson Conner, Cash Browning, Maureen Hanlon, Lucy Diaz, Mary Simon, Ilana Friedman, Mark Timmerman and Donte Tamprateep. Photo by Jacob Wierson

JEC, which officially began at the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, was founded by three third-year students, Ericka Simpson Conner, Mark Timmerman and Ilana Friedman.

“We wanted to have something that would bring everyone together,” Simpson Conner said. “Just because we have equality, doesn’t mean that we have equity. We wanted people to understand what the difference was.”

Simpson Conner, along with Timmerman and Friedman, were motivated by the desire to see people of all cultures and racial backgrounds being represented and recipients of justice.

“We met probably four or five times [at the beginning] to organize our thoughts, our goals and the way in which we could start making lasting institutional change not only at SLU LAW, but also within the St. Louis legal community,” said Friedman, who is a dual-degree student working toward her J.D. and M.A. in psychology. “JEC would be about doing the work and providing students opportunities to go out into the community to start having positive impacts immediately while in law school, coupled with presentations and speakers and educational events at SLU LAW.”

Their first year at  SLU LAW began in the fall of 2014, just weeks after the shooting of Michael Brown, an incident that sparked racial discussions around the country. It was this event, and the ensuing debates on race relations in the United States, that encouraged them to ignite a law student group that promoted all facets of justice.

“There is this responsibility that lawyers have,” Simpson Conner said, “to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to receive justice and have their voice be heard.”

As SLU LAW students, being educated with a Jesuit perspective that seeks to care for all people gives them the drive and the motivation to do so in innovative ways.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about that, how we could push forward and move forward the whole idea of Jesuit values,” Simpson Conner said.

JEC has ambitious goals that seek to influence SLU LAW internally and the community that surrounds it.

“Some short-term goals are to supplement topics within course material,” Friedman said. “Instead of using typical cases normally taught, professors supplement contracts cases dealing with the inequitable administration of justice or flawed contracts based on racial or sexual discrimination.”

In the long term, JEC collaborators desire to ignite a passion and a motivation for all SLU LAW students to fight for equality and equity for all peoples of every race and ethnicity.