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Curriculum in Race, Law and Equity

Penn State Law recognizes that educating students about race, bias and cultural humility is essential to their role as lawyers and as articulated by the ABA “their obligation as future lawyers to work to eliminate racism in the legal profession.” Penn State Law is committed to offering students a strong curriculum that includes courses in race, law and equity. In summer 2020, Penn State Law developed a set of concrete action steps to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at PSL. One step included: “Adding new courses and adding to existing courses opportunities for meaningful engagement with the interface of law, race, and social justice.”  In fall 2020, Penn State Law adopted a concentration in Race, Law and Equity. 

In academic year 2020-2021, the faculty diversity committee explored additional curricular options and helped to pilot a course in spring 2022 titled Law & (In)equity where each week during the semester, one professor based or affiliated with Penn State Law led a discussion or lecture on topics that included immigrant exclusion; inequity in military and veterans’ law; racial justice in the criminal justice system, including disparities in law enforcement’s use of force, rate of arrests, stops and frisks, pretrial release, and sentencing; the current state of K-12 desegregation; legal tech and access to justice; and color blindness versus color consciousness in U.S. law, among others.  In spring 2022, Law & (In)equity was adopted by the faculty as a permanent course in the curriculum.

In February 2022, the ABA passed a resolution Standard 303(c) which requires law schools to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism: (1) at the start of the program of legal education, and (2) at least once again before graduation.” The standard continues “For students engaged in law clinics or field placements, the second educational occasion will take place before, concurrently with, or as part of their enrollment in clinical or field placement courses.” In summer 2022, the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Law Dean developed a proposal for the faculty for compliance with ABA 303(c). The proposal was informed by but not limited to the work of the faculty diversity committee in the prior year and also reviewed by the 2022-2023 curriculum and diversity committees.  

On October 4, 2022, the faculty voted to adopt a curricular requirement for students to complete in order to comply with ABA 303(c). Specifically, students must complete at least one of the following courses as a graduation requirement: 

  1. Asylum and Refugee Law
  2. Children & the Law
  3. Comparative Constitutional Law Seminar
  4. Critical (Dis)Ability Theory and Carceral Culture
  5. Critical Race & Feminist Legal Theory
  6. Equal Protection & Civil Rights
  7. Family Law 
  8. Higher Education Law Practice 
  9. Human Rights, Intersectionality, & the Law
  10. Law & (In)equity
  11. Law and Sexuality
  12. Law of the Police Seminar
  13. Employment Discrimination
  14. Immigration Law
  15. International Human Rights Seminar
  16. Minority Business Ownership
  17. Property & Poverty Seminar
  18. Street Law 
  19. Selected non-law elective courses (e.g., the Restorative Justice Initiative’s “Teaching in Corrections” course;  "Race and American Politics" in Penn State's Political Science Department, and certain courses in the School of International Affairs, the African American Studies Department, the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Department, the School of Public Policy, and others with Associate Dean for Academic Affairs approval)

This requirement is a J.D. degree requirement, effective as of Fall 2023 and requires earning at least a C in the course. 


Frequently Asked Questions About ABA 303(c)


Q1. The new requirement states is a "J.D. requirement and will be effective as of Fall 2023." Will current students be affected by the new requirement?

No. The requirement will apply starting with first year law students entering in Fall 2023.

Q2. Can students enroll in one of the listed courses and satisfy multiple J.D. requirements? For example, can a seminar course satisfy the 303(c) requirement and the Upper-Level Writing Requirement?

Yes. Students who are enrolled in a course that is listed as a 303(c) course but that also fulfills another graduation requirement will be able to count the course for both purposes.

Q3. What if a student is accepted into a clinic, externship or field placement program for the following semester but is unable to enroll in a particular 303(c) course at the same time because a class is full?

Students who are unable to enroll in a particular 303(c) course during registration should work with the Academic Dean to find a solution which in some cases may include enrolling in a different course on the list.

Q4: What grade must a student receive in a course to satisfy the 303(c) requirement?

To satisfy the requirement, a student must receive a grade of C or higher in a graded course and must receive credit in a credit/no credit course.

Q5: May students take more than one of the listed courses during their time at Penn State Law?