Loyola’s School of Law recently established a new social justice center, offering unique opportunities to its law students and the surrounding community starting as early as the 2018-19 school year.
The new Curt and Linda Rodin Center for Social Justice was formed to enhance and develop programs which focus on fairness, equity and justice, according to an April 5 press release from the School of Law. The center is located on the 11th floor of Corboy Law Center at the Water Tower Campus.
While the Rodin Center will serve to provide a renewed focus on social justice issues, Michael Kaufman, dean of the School of Law, said social justice has been a vital part of the school’s identity for decades.
“[Social justice has] been part of our water, part of our DNA … The question is, how can we make it more visible, more tangible, more real and more impactful,” Kaufman said. “When we began talking about what a center would look like at Loyola, it was really about bringing together those programs that already existed here that served basic human needs under one umbrella.”
The center’s creation was funded by a donation from Curt Rodin, who graduated from Loyola’s law school in 1971, and his wife, Linda Rodin.
Curt Rodin worked in the legal industry for more than 30 years in the fields of construction injury, product defects and medical malpractice, eventually serving as a partner and president at Anesi, Ozmon, Rodin, Novak, & Kohen, Ltd. The Rodins have been long supporters of Loyola’s School of Law, providing scholarships and fellowships in social justice areas.
Seven faculty members were elected to head the Rodin Center. Mary Bird, current director of Public Service Programs at Loyola, will serve as Leader-in-Residence as a liaison, connecting the social justice missions of the Loyola’s Center for Public Interest to the Rodin Center, according to Kaufman.
Anita Weinberg, current director of the ChildLaw Policy Institute and a clinical professor of law at Loyola, was appointed director of the center. Weinberg has worked for and with underrepresented individuals, particularly children and families, in her 20 years at Loyola and previous social work experience.
The new center has three main functions: to build on existing programs within the law school, enhance legal services for marginalized communities and instill in students an understanding of the meaning and significance of a socially just society, Weinberg said.
One of the center’s elements will be to provide added support for currently existing clinical programs, according to Kaufman.
Clinical programs are four-credit courses where students participate in both classroom and clinical components, where they have the opportunity to represent clients while also completing traditional classroom work.
New seminars might also be added to the curriculum over time, according to Weinberg. The center will conduct an annual summit to bring together the university community, along with researchers, advocates and practitioners, according to Weinberg.
Weinberg said three students will be selected as social justice fellows through an upcoming application process. The fellowship will include a stipend and additional responsibilities within the law school and greater community.
Weinberg said she would like to see the center strengthen the law school’s community ties and serve as a resource for practitioners, advocates and community members who are looking to move social justice initiatives forward.
She also said she hopes the center can impact student experiences, even if their career paths don’t directly fall in line with social justice issues.
“My goal is every student that graduates Loyola law school is conversant in the meaning and significance of social justice and can bring that understanding to their work or to conversations they are having … that they can talk about social justice and contribute a perspective wherever they may find themselves,” Weinberg said.
Mariana Millan, a senior studying anthropology said she sees the Rodin Center potentially making a positive impact.
“I think there is a lot of great minds here and also people applying to go to the law schools and such that come with open minds trying to change a system that has been flawed,” Millan said. “To have the opportunity to challenge those social justice issues here at Loyola is a positive thing, its a step in the right direction.”
However, Millan believes Loyola doesn’t always embody the social justice values they preach, citing the university’s action surrounding a student’s detainment in February.
“I don’t think just opening something makes Loyola a social justice oriented school, it’s just another department that they are adding for me … because I don’t know what the future is going to bring,” the 21 year-old said.
Holli Van Zandt-Lagina, a first-year studying secondary education major, said she sees the center as important for law students.
“I feel like especially for law students though, like future lawyers, it would be a big thing just because I mean justice is basically what they are doing,” Van Zandt-Lagina said.
Van Zandt-Lagina added she wouldn’t be opposed to the Rodin Center performing outreach to undergraduate students at Loyola.
“Even if [undergraduates] are not doing something that really needs social justice in their curriculum or in their future plans, its something that’s good to be aware of no matter what you are doing,” Van Zandt-Lagina said.