In recognition of the work of three Rutgers Law alums in founding student cultural organizations, the Minority Student Program is paying tribute to the Honorable Ronald Freeman, the Honorable Carmen Garcia, and David Oh.
Freeman RLAW’72, a retired New Jersey Superior Court judge; Garcia RLAW’85, formerly Trenton Municipal Court’s chief judge; and Oh RLAW’85, a member of Philadelphia City Council will be honored at the MSP spring reception at Rutgers Law School’s Camden location on Wednesday, April 12.
“There was only a few of us so, consequently, we did not have a lot of conversations with other members of our classes,” says Freeman, a founder of the Black Law Student Union, now called the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). “We were somewhat isolated, so it motivated us to start an organization to have social and intellectual involvement with other people who are minorities and have an opportunity to join together and discuss cases and classes.”
Oh says he founded the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association in 1985 after seeing that other universities had similar organizations to support students as well as people in the community. “We were interested in helping the community by providing some free legal services and help break through language barriers,” says Oh.
Student cultural groups help to enrich all students,” says Garcia, the founder of Alianza, the Latino law students association. “What is unique about the law school experience is the strong and powerful legacy of achievement attained by BLSA, Alianza, and APALA. It’s a legacy grounded in a genuine commitment of mutual respect, collaboration and cooperation,” says Garcia. “These affinity organizations – along with other student groups – have created a true sense of symbiotic community on campus. Their existence is not about accentuating differences but rather about validating and celebrating commonalities.”
The student organizations help to foster a diverse and inclusive culture at the school. Freeman says he’s pleased to see that there are more opportunities for people of color in the legal profession.
Garcia says despite the strides made creating a more diverse legal community, much more needs to be done.
“The biggest challenge faced by attorneys of color is the disturbing and pervasive political climate of intolerance existing in the United States today,” says Garcia. “Our calling as lawyers is about being in service to others, and in doing so, promoting justice. The world is undergoing unprecedented change and transition and the legal profession needs to not only keep up with the technological advancements, we need to be leading the charge. That requires strongly embracing diversity and inclusion at all levels, in all areas of the law.”