Diversity News Roundup-Student Spolight

As the semester comes to an end, I wanted to give the opportunity to share the voice of a student member of the BU Law community. Peter Alvarez is a graduating 3L. Peter and I have worked closely on several events and initiatives. Here Peter reflects on his time at BU Law:

I came to Boston University School of Law on the Martin Luther King Fellowship, and I can honestly say that I have developed professional lawyering skills, a thirst for social justice, and collaborative planning and communication experience.

I’m from Dorchester, Massachusetts, a mostly Black and Latino neighborhood within Boston.  I was a few years out of undergrad, and taught in both Houston and Boston public schools for a total of five years.  Needless to say, I came to law school with a unique perspective on the world and our laws.

Given all my past experiences, 1L Year was frustrating.  I loved my professors, and I happened to be in one of the more diverse sections. But I felt like my classmates and I were learning about legal doctrines without context.  Race, as I saw it through my life and lives of the children I taught, was always important.  In the law, race has an even more important role.  I get it.  We cannot spend all of our 1L class time discussing race, but I wish there were an outlet for such discussions with our peers and professors (by 3L year this would exist).  

The positive side of 1L year, though, was the mentorship of upperclassmen in BU BLSA and LALSA.  These upperclassmen really looked after us (the 1Ls), brought us into their lives, their homes, and shared their collective resources with us.  I know I felt like I was important to them, and hopefully my peers and I made them feel the same way.  

By 2L year I was the Vice President of BU’s Black Law Student Association as well as an active member in the Latin American Law Students Association. In BLSA we planned some great events, collaborated with the Boston College and Harvard BLSAs, created the first annual Black History Month Jazz Soiree, mentored first year students, held workshops, among many other great programming initiatives.  

One of our greatest achievements, came from collaborating with the other affinity groups to get BU Law to create the Admitted Student Mosaic Weekend.  We worked with the Admissions Office and Student Affairs, and by the Spring of 2L year, we had a weekend long program for diverse students visiting BU Law. 

My second semester, I took possibly one of the most difficult classes that I would ever love, Supreme Court with Professor Maclin.  It was a class that left me with an adrenaline rush every time I left.  The class had a diverse group of students who would write amazing opinions on cases currently in the docket, and then we would hash it out with each other, Professor Maclin and government attorneys he would bring in to plead the government’s case.  I got to see some of these criminal procedure cases in action when I went to New Orleans to volunteer at the Public Defenders Office.  During my week long trip, I did the research and wrote the argument that resulted in charges dismissed for a man’s second felony arrest!

During 2L Year I also volunteered for Kids in Need of Defense, an immigration advocacy group for undocumented children.  During my time there I saw the need for more Spanish speakers with legal experience.  I went to our LALSA and recruited students to join the cause.  All in all about five members of LALSA that year, and more the year after, actively volunteered with KIND with some of them working full time over the summer.  Needless to say, I hope that volunteering for KIND will be a lasting tradition at BU Law.

3L year, as I close out my last law school year and my term as Vice President of the Student Government, I look upon the past three years with an optimistic lens.  First semester of 3L year, I took Critical Race Theory (CRT) with Professor Khiara Bridges.  This was what I needed 1L year: a way to discuss and analyze court cases and statutes from a racially critical perspective because for me race was always omnipresent. 

In CRT I wrote my certification paper on the second class citizenship status Black and Latino men experience when encountering law enforcement.  This issue hit close to home since the death of Denis Reynoso, a family friend and Iraq War Veteran of Dominican descent, who was shot when police entered his home without a warrant.  It was a cathartic experience to write about Denis Reynoso, and the countless other men who looked like me, the people I taught, and the friends I grew up with in Dorchester.  It was as though I was working on this research and writing in their honor.   

Second semester 3L year, one of my CRT classmates came up with the idea of reviewing 1L courses from a critical perspective with 1L professors.  The room was packed, and the professors discussed race!  The law school will continue the critical perspectives programming next year, and for that I am thankful.  

The point is, every time I have had an issue at BU Law it has been addressed.  From wanting a diversity weekend for admitted students, to creating the first ever Jazz Soiree, from enlisting BU Law students to volunteer for KIND to having an outlet for 1Ls to discuss 1L courses from a critical perspective.  The community and faculty are open to suggestions, feedback and criticism.  That’s why I am proud to be graduating from BU Law this May, and I will carry the memories and experiences earned at this school for a lifetime.


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