Statement from Maine Law Dean on Juneteenth, 2023

On June 19, 2023, we celebrate Juneteenth, our nation’s second Independence Day. This holiday commemorates the emancipation of all enslaved people in the United States. It is a holiday that brings to mind the words of Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer:

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Those words rang true when Hamer delivered them in 1971 at the inaugural National Women’s Political Caucus, and they remain just as salient today. Despite the passage of 158 years since the last enslaved people were emancipated in this country and the progress that has been made, we have much work ahead of us to address systemic inequalities and continuing discrimination.

We as individuals and as a community must take meaningful action towards a position of anti-racism. This means actively promoting diversity, inclusion, and belonging throughout Maine Law, from our classrooms to our alumni communities. It means supporting curriculum and programming at Maine Law that reflect the significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.   It means opposing systemic racism at the institutional, state, and national levels.

At Maine Law, we are already deeply committed to this work, whether through the efforts of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, our new Public Interest and Social Justice Law Certificate program,  the significant curricular changes we have made in the past few years, or the multi-faceted ways our students, faculty, and alumni engage in legal and public affairs to move us towards a more just and equitable world.

We can and must do more. I welcome your suggestions and thoughts about how we can all continue to move forward.   My door is open.

Leigh Saufley

University of Maine School of Law Dean and President