Law students, Legal Services for Students assisting with free tax preparation

Monday, February 13, 2017

LAWRENCE – As tax season gets underway, two University of Kansas groups are offering free tax preparation services for those who qualify.

KU Law students with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will prepare returns for taxpayers who are residents of Kansas, Missouri or Illinois; who earn less than $54,000 per household per year; and who do not itemize their deductions. The program runs from Feb. 15 through April 17.

Legal Services for Students (LSS) is also offering free tax assistance through a VITA grant from the Internal Revenue Service. Any U.S. resident taxpayer may prepare and electronically file their federal and state tax returns for free via the LSS website if their income was $64,000 or less in 2016. International students and staff at KU may also prepare their taxes using free software with no income limit.

Last year, KU Law students prepared about 225 federal and state tax returns. LSS directly prepared 183 returns in 2016 and assisted more than 1,700 individuals in preparing their own returns through the tax workshops at the Budig computer lab. View the workshop schedule (PDF). For more information about tax assistance provided by Legal Services for Students, contact the office at 785-864-5665 or

“The tax preparation workshops are a great way for students and staff to learn about properly preparing and filing their own tax returns,” said Jo Hardesty, director of Legal Services for Students. “LSS tax attorneys and KU Law student interns are available at the workshops to assist and answer any questions that may arise.”

The VITA program operates on a first-come, first-served basis, and the number of preparers varies with the site. Those seeking assistance are encouraged to arrive near the start of each session. Taxpayers should bring proof of identification and all relevant documentation, including proof of income, expenditures and health insurance-related documents. For more information, call 785-864-9227.

Law students Andrew Jorgenson and Jordan Haas are coordinating this year’s VITA program, with about 25 other law students helping to prepare returns. Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school and professor of tax-related law, serves as the VITA faculty coordinator.

“VITA provides great value to the community and KU students,” Jorgenson said. “It gives KU Law students practical experience with tax law and customer service while also helping individuals who seek an alternative to paying a professional or risking error in preparing their own returns.”

Taxes are due on Tuesday, April 18, instead of Saturday, April 15, this year due to the federal observance of Emancipation Day. 

Spring 2017 VITA Schedule


6–8:45 p.m., Green Hall, Wheat Law Library, 3rd Floor Computer Lab, 1535 W. 15th St.


3-5:45 p.m., Green Hall, Wheat Law Library, 3rd Floor Computer Lab, 1535 W. 15th St.


Noon-2 p.m., Penn House, 1035 Pennsylvania St.*

3-4:45 p.m., Ballard Center, 708 Elm St.**

5:15-6:30 p.m., Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority Resident Services, 1600 Haskell Ave., Apt. 187


10-11:45 a.m., Green Hall, Wheat Law Library, 3rd Floor Computer Lab, 1535 W. 15th St.

* Sessions will be held at Penn House on Feb. 16, March 2, March 16, April 6 and April 13. Sessions run Wednesday, Feb. 15, through Monday, April 17. No sessions will be held on Feb. 22 (Wednesday), Feb. 27 (Monday), or March 18-26 (University of Kansas spring break).

** Sessions will be held at Ballard Center on Feb. 23, March 9, March 30, April 6 and April 13.

Law school recognized for commitment to community service

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law ranks highly among law schools contributing the most in legal services to their local communities, according to a national publication.

The Winter 2017 issue of PreLaw Magazine lists KU Law on its Community Service Leaders honor roll for “schools with the greatest community impact.” During the 2015-2016 academic year, KU Law students completed 18,725 pro bono service hours – an average of 52 hours per student – through law school clinics, field placements and other service opportunities.

Students represented elderly clients who needed assistance with benefits, grandparent visitation or advance directives through the Elder Law Field Placement. They reviewed claims of actual innocence and constitutional violations from people incarcerated in state and federal prison in Kansas through the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies. They assisted medical patients whose health issues might have legal solutions through the Medical-Legal Partnership. They prepared tax returns for low-income adults through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and more.

“At KU Law, we have long encouraged students to make a commitment to pro bono service as part of their professional lives,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school. “Lawyers — and law students — have specialized skills, and with those skills comes a responsibility to serve. Performing pro bono service in law school is an excellent way to give back to the community while gaining hands-on legal experience that enriches our students’ legal education and better prepares them for practice.”

Beginning with the Class of 2017, KU Law will formally recognize these efforts through its new Pro Bono Program. Students who complete 50 hours of pro bono service during their law school career will be honored at graduation, and students who complete 15 hours or more of pro bono service during a single academic year will be recognized on the annual Pro Bono Honor Roll.

Third-year law student Karly Weigel is among those working toward Pro Bono Distinction. As a volunteer ombudsman with the Kansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office, she works as an advocate at a Lawrence nursing home facility, helping residents navigate a range of care and treatment issues.

“I use many of the mediation and listening techniques from my law school course on alternative dispute resolution,” Weigel said. “Building relationships with the residents has allowed me to use my classroom knowledge in a real-world setting while giving back to the Lawrence community. KU Law’s new Pro Bono Program is a great way for students to be recognized for their service outside of the classroom.”

Pro bono service is uncompensated, supervised, law-related work that benefits the public. KU Law’s 2015-2016 pro bono service hours by program:

  • Criminal Prosecution Field Placement: 1,440
  • Elder Law Field Placement: 1,040
  • Field Placement Program: 7,400
  • Kansas Supreme Court Research Practicum: 1,020
  • Legal Aid Clinic: 3,262
  • Medical-Legal Partnership: 1,200
  • Project for Innocence: 2,783
  • Tribal Judicial Support Clinic: 480
  • VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance): 100.

KU to host international comparative law workshop

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

LAWRENCE — Legal scholars from around the world will gather in Lawrence this week to present their research on contemporary law and business issues. The American Society of Comparative Law (ASCL) Younger Comparativists Committee’s Third Annual Comparative Business and Financial Law Workshop will explore topics ranging from Islamic commercial law to consumer financial protection and Chinese corporate governance.

“The workshop is an opportunity for younger comparative scholars to engage with a group of interdisciplinary commentators around cutting-edge issues in business law and financial regulation,” said Virginia Harper Ho, University of Kansas professor of law and current chair of the Younger Comparativists Committee. “KU Law has a strong tradition as a member of the ASCL, and this workshop is a great complement to our international and comparative law program. It’s also an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from the KU School of Business, who will be participating as commentators.” 

The program will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, at the KU School of Law in Green Hall.

The objective of the program is to provide comments to works in progress to help authors move their projects forward. Presenters will share their research, while commentators and colleagues provide feedback and discussion.

Composed of more than 100 institutional sponsor members, the ASCL is the United States’ leading organization promoting the comparative study of law. The group’s Younger Comparativists Committee aims to engage and support early-career scholars in the study of comparative law.

Visit the KU Law website for a complete schedule and list of presenters and commentators. Support for this program is provided by Adduci Mastriani & Schaumberg LLP, an international trade law firm.

Law student Kriston Guillot recognized among KU Men of Merit

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

LAWRENCE — Sixteen students, faculty and staff have been selected as University of Kansas Men of Merit, recognized for positively defining masculinity through challenging cultural norms, taking action and leading by example while making contributions to the university and/or the community.

A reception will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Union. A short ceremony will take place at 5:15 p.m. to individually recognize and honor each man for his campus and community contributions.

This year’s honorees:

  • Harrison Baker — senior, psychology and human sexuality
  • Jeff Chasen — associate vice provost, institutional compliance
  • Hunter Finch — graduate student, higher education administration, University Career Center
  • W. Matthew Gillispie — clinical associate professor, speech-language-hearing: sciences & disorders
  • Kriston Guillot — law student, intern at Legal Services for Students
  • Vikram Lakhanpal — senior, engineering physics
  • Rayfield Lawrence II — sophomore, sociology
  • Juan Pablo Marroquin — senior, journalism & mass communications
  • Dan McCarthy — academic adviser
  • Abdoulie Njai — senior, human biology and pre-med
  • Sam Eastes — senior, journalism and global & international studies
  • Loïc Njiakin — senior, neurobiology, minor in English
  • Joshua Robinson — graduate student, public affairs & administration, city management intern, city of Overland Park
  • Reza Barati — assistant professor, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Casey James Douglas— junior, sport management
  • Chris Sowa (posthumous) — KU Student Housing

The KU Men of Merit poster campaign was created in 2009 by former KU football player Gary Green. This project is coordinated and sponsored by the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity.

Current research supports the important role gender plays in college students’ identity development and academic achievement. Studies indicate that nationally, male students are less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than female students. In addition, men are less likely to engage in volunteer activities and participate in student clubs and organizations. This growing gender gap points to the need for college campuses to address the disparity and create mechanisms for increasing men’s involvement, engagement and achievement.

This poster aims to increase awareness of the importance of education and involvement in men’s lives, inspire campus men to take an active role in their college experience and provide role models and mentors for men to be successful. The poster features a quote from creator Gary Green: “It’s not about how many things you’re strong enough to tear down. It’s about how many things you are brave enough to build up with love.”

Posters will be available at the reception, in the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity office, and can be requested by contacting the office.

Sponsors and assistance with this poster include the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, the Office of Diversity and Equity and the Larken Photo & Video Co.

Law professor outlines steps to achieve global, sustainable agriculture

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

LAWRENCE — Around the world, more land is being converted into agricultural production to feed the growing global population. However, the current model of agriculture is unsustainable, uses unprecedented amounts of fossil-carbon energy and contributes to pollution, water degradation and other problems. A University of Kansas law professor has written a book calling for support of a revolution in agriculture and outlines the legal, national and international political innovations that would be required to make it happen.

John Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law at KU, has written “International Law and Agroecological Husbandry: Building Legal Foundations for a New Agriculture.” The book first outlines the “extractive agriculture” system the modern world has used for the last few centuries and its unsustainability. Head then explores the prospects for transitioning to a system that could produce grains perennially and achieve adequate yields to feed the world while reducing problems such as climate change and soil degradation.

“How can we use international law and international institutions to facilitate the transition to a natural-system agriculture? My impression has been that those engaged in crop research efforts feel that if they come up with the right answer as a scientific and technological matter, then agriculture will be somewhat easily changed,” Head said. “I doubt that will be the case. I see it as a progression that has several elements and will take a great deal of international cooperation.”

Head, who grew up on a farm in northeast Missouri and has practiced international and comparative law, emphasizes his support for research being done at organizations such as the Land Institute in Salina. The institute, along with other research bodies around the world, is studying how to develop high-yield grain crops that could produce food year after year without replanting. Drawing inspiration from native grassland ecosystems such as those of the prairies that once covered North America’s Great Plains, the scientific efforts aim not only to develop crops that are perennial — wheat, for instance, that would not require yearly land preparation, planting and intense weed and pest control efforts — but that are also grown in mixtures with other plants. If successful, research efforts at the Land Institute and elsewhere would revolutionize the way agriculture can be practiced around the world, Head wrote.

“What they’ve achieved makes it pretty clear that it is possible to move from annual crops in a monoculture to perennial crops in a polyculture and produce adequate yields,” Head said of research at the Land Institute and other organizations.

The book goes on to outline the steps necessary to make a global transition to an agro-ecological system possible. Perhaps most importantly, expanded funding of research into perennial grain production is vital. Policy makers, governments and private donors around the world increasing the funding available for such work could greatly expedite progress and allow for new discoveries, Head wrote.

Also central to agricultural reform, Head said, would be a shift away from traditional agricultural subsidies and subsidies for the fossil carbon industry. These and other initiatives would confront obstacles, but Head outlines how they could be possible and urges that they are necessary to put the world’s agriculture on a sustainable footing.

“We have a nonsustainable form of agriculture now. That’s not a surprise to anyone,” Head said. “I don’t think there is a lack of agreement that there is a lot of downside to our current system.”

“International Law and Agroecological Husbandry” also calls for American leadership in agricultural reform in the form of a 50-year farm bill. Such a bill could take a much broader, big-picture approach to the evolution of agriculture and necessary changes, instead of focusing on five-year terms as it does now. It could also serve as a model for other countries around the world.

“In that respect, I elaborate quite a bit on an idea that Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry detailed in a New York Times column about a 50-year farm bill that would take a long-term look at this transition,” Head said.

The book also examines how a new global treaty could be used as an international tool to advance an agroecological system. Agreements between nations to support research and the implementation of such a system could both serve as a mechanism to help nations work together and as an incentive to continue to make progress.

Finally, Head includes a chapter exploring the idea of sovereignty and how moving to a more modern, revised version of the idea could facilitate progress in agriculture as well as numerous other international concerns. Currently, sovereignty is heavily dependent on 16th and 17th century ideas on what it means for a nation to be sovereign. Head has already begun work on a new book about how new ideas of sovereignty could be developed and how they could create international collaboration that is more representative and effective.

There is good scientific evidence and progress around the world to suggest that fundamental agricultural reform is possible, if given the proper support, Head said. This period in history could be a key moment in making a monumental transition that would help continue to feed the world while addressing many of the problems in the current model of growing the globe’s food.

Photo: The Land Institute, Salina. Courtesy the Land Institute.

KU law students capture regional title, advance in National Moot Court Competition

Thursday, December 01, 2016

KU Law students Ashley Billam and Sam LaRoque

LAWRENCE – A pair of University of Kansas School of Law students is heading to New York City after winning first place in the regional rounds of the prestigious National Moot Court Competition.

Ashley Billam, of Olathe, and Sam LaRoque, of Shawnee — both second-year law students at KU — defeated the University of Oklahoma to capture the title during the regional competition Nov. 18-19 at Washburn University School of Law. They also won the award for best petitioner brief. Billam and LaRoque will represent KU at nationals Jan. 30-Feb 2, 2017, in New York.

“We both poured a lot into preparing, and I’m very glad it paid off and we get to move on to nationals,” LaRoque said. “Arguing the final round in front of a panel that included the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court was a real thrill.” Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lawton Nuss and Dan Biles and Kansas Appeals Court Judge Steve Leben presided over the final round. Judges do not learn which schools the teams represent until the competition concludes.

More than 120 schools compete each year in the National Moot Court Competition. Sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and the New York City Bar, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious moot court tournaments in the nation.

“Competition in our region is fierce,” said team coach Pam Keller, clinical professor of law and director of KU’s Moot Court Program. “Placing first really speaks highly of our KU team’s talent. Sam and Ashley worked very hard and deserve this success.”

Third-year law students Kriston Guillot, of Shawnee, and Erica McCabe, of Emporia, also broke into the quarterfinals in Topeka. During the competition, KU students bested teams from the University of Oklahoma, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Nebraska.

Billam gained confidence from the experience.

“Moot court was an extremely challenging but fun experience that helped me overcome my fear of public speaking,” she said. “As 2Ls competing for the first time, we never expected to get past regionals.”

Photo: From left, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, KU Law students Ashley Billam and Sam LaRoque, Kansas Appeals Court Judge Steve Leben, and Kansas Supreme Court Justice Dan Biles.

Professor's book to assist students, lawyers in 'alternative dispute resolution'

Monday, November 07, 2016

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor has authored a new edition of a book designed to help law students and lawyers develop important practical skills and learn the law governing disputes resolved outside of court.

Stephen Ware, professor of law, has written “Principles of Alternative Dispute Resolution,” now in its third edition. The book is a concise guide to the three main processes of what lawyers call “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” or “ADR”: arbitration, negotiation and mediation.

“Lawyers call these three processes ‘alternative dispute resolution’ because they are our most common alternatives to courts deciding cases,” Ware said. “While cases resolved by courts — judges and juries — typically get the most media attention, a great many cases are resolved by arbitrators, or by the disputing parties’ agreement reached through negotiation or mediation.”

Arbitration is like litigation in court because both arbitration and litigation allow disputing parties and their lawyers to present evidence and arguments to neutral decision-makers. However, those decision-makers in arbitration are neither judges nor jurors, but arbitrators chosen by the parties and usually paid by the parties. So an arbitration is basically a private-sector court created by the disputing parties’ contract.

Negotiation is the most common process of dispute resolution and is widely used by lawyers to settle cases that would otherwise be resolved by litigation or arbitration.

“Negotiation skills are among the most important skills a lawyer can have,” Ware said.

Mediation is a closely related skill because a mediator is a neutral person who assists parties in reaching a negotiated settlement.

“The idea behind increasing use of ADR was that courts were too crowded, litigation was too expensive, and that hopefully through alternative methods we could get better, cheaper resolution of disputes, or both,” Ware said.

The book has been used as the primary text for Alternative Dispute Resolution courses in several law schools. The book is suited for that role because it clearly and concisely explains the theory, practice and legal doctrine relating to arbitration, negotiation and mediation. This enables law school instructors using the book to save time “learning the law” so more class time can be devoted to students working with the law to develop practical skills in an experiential manner. For example, many ADR courses involve students negotiating or mediating the settlement of a hypothetical case or drafting a hypothetical arbitration agreement.

Ware emphasizes this sort of skill-building when he teaches ADR and, more broadly, in his other teaching. He also chaired a KU Law committee that led the law school to curricular innovations expanding opportunities for law students to develop a range of practical skills through experiential learning.

“This book is part of that effort to keep legal education practical and serve students by preparing them for their careers, and to serve practicing lawyers as well,” he said.

The three major processes of alternative dispute resolution are very pervasive in law, which makes knowledge of them useful to practicing lawyers in nearly every field and specialization of law. For example, the book is a quick resource for practicing lawyers looking to reach a negotiated settlement, whether in business, family, personal injury or numerous other areas of law. As a research tool, the book can introduce lawyers to areas of alternative dispute resolution they may not be familiar with, such as confidentiality requirements in mediation, and point them to relevant statutes and court decisions in those areas to help set the foundation for their research.

“Good legal research often begins with ‘I need a concise overview of the big picture of a given area of law,’” Ware said. “Then it moves to ‘I need leads to find the law in my jurisdiction about my specific legal issue.’”

Ware’s book provides both the concise overview and the leads for further research.

The new edition expands largely on arbitration. As international business has grown in recent years, international arbitration has grown as well. In addition, arbitration of consumer and employment disputes has grown and become increasingly controversial. The Supreme Court and other courts across the country have issued a number of decisions in the area, and the book has updated its research to reflect the changes and new rulings.

Ware has written extensively on ADR for more than 20 years and said seeing the many connections between ADR and other areas he has expertise in — such as contract, consumer, commercial and bankruptcy law — make alternative dispute resolution an especially rewarding area of law in which to work.

“One of the great, fun things about my career is the ability to teach a wide variety of areas and write on a wide variety as well, to be able to view law as a whole rather than focusing more narrowly,” Ware said.

Alumni fund center to prepare students for careers in transactional law

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LAWRENCE – The Polsinelli law firm and its University of Kansas alumni attorneys have committed $250,000 to create the Polsinelli Transactional Law Center at the KU School of Law.

The Polsinelli Transactional Law Center capitalizes on its namesake’s distinguished reputation to cultivate a new generation of lawyers with the practical skills necessary for successful careers. The center will serve as the umbrella for transactional law courses, symposia and programming related to mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, stock offerings, financing, real estate and other business transactions.

“KU students work extremely hard learning the foundations of law, then getting the hands-on experience necessary to begin their careers ready for practice. It is important that graduates enter the workforce with the ability to understand clients’ business challenges and context,” said 1972 KU Law graduate Thomas Kokoruda, a shareholder in Polsinelli’s health care litigation practice group. “The new Polsinelli Transactional Law Center will help KU Law students become business-minded and go beyond technical lawyering.”

The center was established with $250,000 in gifts and pledges from 67 KU Law alumni and friends employed by Polsinelli – representing a 100 percent alumni participation rate.  

Stephen Mazza, dean and professor of law, expressed gratitude for the gifts.

“This generous support from Polsinelli allows us to expand practical opportunities for KU Law students, maximizing their ability to hit the ground running right out of law school,” he said. “These gifts help us build on our exceptional Far Above fundraising success, and they create a program that will benefit law students immediately and for generations to come.” 

Over the past 30 years, Polsinelli has funded KU Law moot court teams, diversity scholarships and classroom remodeling. And the firm’s commitment extends beyond financial support. As part of the Polsinelli Transactional Law Center, firm attorneys helped teach an intensive simulation course on Due Diligence in Business Transactions this spring, and the firm will sponsor and help prepare KU teams for the National Transactional LawMeet.

“The center bridges legal knowledge with the actual practice of law,” said Lisa Schultes, a 1985 KU Law alumna and a Polsinelli corporate and transactional law attorney who coordinated the center's inaugural course. “The KU Law students were excited to be involved in an actual business acquisition and to learn the real-world steps necessary to successfully close a transaction. The Polsinelli attorneys enjoyed the opportunity to share their expertise and to give back to the law school. We were impressed with the students’ legal skills, business acumen and enthusiasm.”

“Polsinelli is invested in the quality of the KU law school,” said Jack Kilroy, a firm shareholder and 1973 KU Law graduate. “We are proud to employ more than 65 KU Law grads, and we interview on campus planning to hire more.”

Law professors Webb Hecker and Virginia Harper Ho will serve as co-directors of the center. “Having spent a career teaching doctrinal business law, I am excited to participate in an endeavor that will enable KU students to integrate that law with practice,” Hecker said. “The Polsinelli Transactional Law Center will benefit aspiring transactional lawyers in multiple significant ways not previously possible.”

That outcome aligns with Polsinelli’s commitment to education.

“A steadfast partner to the academic community, Polsinelli has invested in universities across the country by providing sponsorships, in-kind and pro bono services. To sponsor the Transactional Law Center was a natural fit for us,” said Edward “Trip” Frizell , Polsinelli Business Services division chair, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and juris doctor from KU.

Polsinelli was established in 1972 in Kansas City, Missouri. Today the firm employs more than 800 attorneys in 20 offices, serving corporations, institutions and entrepreneurs nationally. Polsinelli attorneys provide practical legal counsel infused with business insight, and focus on health care, financial services, real estate, intellectual property, mid-market corporate and business litigation. Polsinelli attorneys have depth of experience in 100 service areas and 70 industries.

The firm’s gifts were managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

KU lecturer proposes feminist legal reforms to reduce sexual violence against Native American women

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sarah Deer, Fall 2016 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor

LAWRENCE – A MacArthur Fellow nationally recognized for her expertise on sexual violence in Indian country will offer legal strategies to improve outcomes for Native American women during a lecture at the University of Kansas.

Sarah Deer, the Fall 2016 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor at KU, will deliver “Gendering Federal Indian Law” at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

“Native women suffer from the highest rates of violence in the United States,” Deer said. “I have been studying this phenomenon for the last two decades and have ultimately concluded that a broken legal system is to blame. Under current law, tribal nations are not able to take appropriate action when violent crime occurs. I plan to explain how a feminist approach to these legal problems will yield more positive results.”

Deer is a graduate of both KU, 1995, and KU Law, 1999. She is currently a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. This fall, Deer is co-teaching the Sex Crimes course and the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic at KU Law. She is also teaching a class on Feminist Jurisprudence.

“The Langston Hughes Visiting Professor program has done an outstanding job of bringing top minds to the University of Kansas,” Provost Neeli Bendapudi said. “Sarah Deer is bringing the full force of her expertise and reputation to the entire KU campus and leading challenging, timely and enlightening conversations.”  

A citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Deer has documented in her scholarship a history of inadequate protection for victims of physical and sexual abuse in Indian country. She has simultaneously worked with grassroots and national organizations to reform federal policies that hinder the ability of tribes to prosecute offenders. Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In 2014, she was named a MacArthur Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation.

Deer recently published a book, “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America,” and she participated in a conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls.

“Since receiving the MacArthur fellowship in 2014, I have been focused on scholarship and activism that amplifies the voices of Native women – particularly those affected by violence and abuse,” she said. “During the last year, I co-authored two Supreme Court amicus briefs on behalf of Native women’s organizations.”

Deer’s next book project will feature the writings of young Native women who are working on social justice issues. Down the road, she plans to publish a book on indigenous feminist legal theory in American law.

“Having the opportunity to co-teach Sex Crimes and teach Feminist Jurisprudence at KU will provide even more foundation for that project,” Deer said.

The Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship was established at KU in 1977 in honor of the African-American poet, playwright and fiction writer who lived in Lawrence from 1903 to 1916. The professorship attracts prominent or emerging ethnic minority scholars to KU. This is the first Langston Hughes appointment for the law school.

KU lecture to imagine ‘journey out of the racial divide’

Thursday, October 20, 2016

LAWRENCE — Overcoming racism, xenophobia and other identity-based conflicts requires a deeper understanding of the nature of our humanity, suggests a psychology scholar set to speak this month at the University of Kansas.

Michael Penn, professor of psychology at Franklin & Marshall College, will explore “The Journey Out of the Racial Divide: Reflections on the Reclamation of the Human Spirit” during a free public lecture at 3 p.m. Oct. 31 in the Commons at Spooner Hall. Penn’s talk is sponsored by the University of Kansas Libraries, KU School of Law and Peace & Conflict Studies in KU’s Humanities program.

For 25 years, Penn has focused his research and teaching on the world’s most challenging problems, including violence against women and girls, racism and intergroup conflict, hopelessness and the challenge of relational authenticity.

As part of this ongoing work, Penn’s lecture will provide a rational account of the nature of the human spirit and will explore how humanity can move forward in this tumultuous time.

“Modern movements designed to overcome the 500-year legacy of racism must better understand, embody and exploit a more universal notion of what it means to be human,” Penn said. “Social movements must be grounded in the recognition that the long-term protection of humanity requires respect for and cultivation of those universal moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities that are embodied in the notion of the human spirit.”

Organizers hope Penn’s presentation will help advance campus dialogue.

“Led by its students and supported by faculty and staff, the KU community has been working hard to fully accept and understand the modern implications of race and racism on campus, in America and in the world,” said Lua Kamal Yuille, associate professor of law. “Dr. Penn will help us push these conversations to a new level by asking, ‘What’s next?’”

This lecture is part of the Framing the Dialogue series, presented by The Commons in collaboration with campus partners and visiting scholars.


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