Columbia Law School is letting students request final exam postponements if they are suffering from the “traumatic effects” of two recent grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.
The school’s interim dean, Robert E. Scott, announced the policy in an email, the New York Times reports, and a spokeswoman acknowledged that a small number of students already had their exams pushed back. Scott said he consulted with the university’s administrators to approve the policy, which he added is in accordance with the school’s procedures for accommodating students who are experiencing trauma during exam periods.
“The grand juries’ determinations to return non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally,” Scott wrote. “For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.”
The announcement of the policy follows a letter written by the Columbia Law School Coalition of Concerned Students of Color, and posted online, addressing the school’s faculty and administration. “Our trauma will be present with us on exam day, our trauma is inhibiting us from sleeping at night, and our trauma is ever-present among the words in our textbooks,” the group wrote. “We are now asked to use the same legal maneuvers and language on our exams this Monday that was used to deny justice to so many Black and Brown bodies.”
Former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson was not indicted in the August shooting death of Michael Brown, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality. And NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put Garner in an apparent chokehold, was not indicted in the July altercation that resulted in Garner’s death.