SIU’s first Black, female Dean of Law on why diversity matters

By Leah Sutton, Photo Editor

Although there has been a Black Dean and a female Dean, Camille Davidson takes pride in being the first Black female Dean at the SIU School of Law.

Camille Davidson, the first Black female Dean at the SIU School of Law, poses for a portrait Feb. 22, 2021, at the SIU School of Law in Carbondale, Ill. (Leah Sutton | @leahsuttonphotography)

 

“The legal profession is still overwhelmingly white male. Today in 2021, only 5% of attorneys are Black people. I think that diversity is extremely important. That’s the only way that you can ensure access to justice. I believe that whether we’re talking about Black people, LGBTQIA, Latinx, or first-generation students, rural populations, you can always teach the law, but you can never teach people to be from somewhere or to be from a certain culture,” Davidson said.

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 Born and raised in Mississippi, Davidson completed her undergraduate degree in Jackson Mississippi and obtained her juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. in 1990.

 “I just think that the profession is not as diverse as it should be, and it hasn’t really changed. I graduated from law school in 1993 and the percentages haven’t really changed over the last almost 30 years and so I think that’s very important,” Davidson said.

 She said the only way to educate people on issues related to diversity, is to diversify the profession. 

“Lawyers are at the forefront of so much whether it’s education or healthcare, our criminal justice system, employment issues and so there are so many opportunities for lawyers to have an impact,” Davidson said.

 When she began looking for a school hiring for a Dean of Law position, she said her main focus was the student population and the mission of the school. In 2009, she was published in the SIU Law Journal which had brought her attention to SIU.

 Last year, faculty in the law school voted to talk about issues of diversity in the classroom. The SIU School of Law also has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee made up of students and faculty.

 “When I teach, I try very hard to incorporate diversity of thought in the classroom. I think that, especially in law school, that we need that diversity of thought. It helps us become better practitioners so that’s what I strive to do,” Davidson said.

Davidson also strives to support law students outside of the classroom.

On her own time and not as the Dean of the Law school, Davidson spoke at the Breonna Taylor march on October 2, 2020.

Davidson said the event was organized by law students and that “as a dean I walked the fine line of not speaking on behalf of the university, but speaking as an individual, but also supporting the students and things that are important to them and important to me as well and where I feel like I had something to offer.”

“I think that Black history is 365 days a year and I hope that we can all get to a point to understand that we can’t share America’s history without sharing Black history,” Davidson said.

Photo Editor Leah Sutton can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @LeahSutton_

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