The Law Weekly has seen its share of ups and downs during the last several years. Alex Haden ’17 made it the mission of his tenure as Editor-in-Chief to restore the Law Weekly to its former glory as the pulse of the Law School community and as the historical record for the school. Under his leadership, the Law Weekly won the ABA Student Newspaper of the year award. To say I had big shoes to fill was an understatement.
My goal for the year was to move from rebuilding the paper to taking it in a new direction. That new direction became clear on August 11 and 12, 2017.
The Law Weekly office houses paper copies of every issue we have published for the last seventy years. We see our archives as dozens of little time capsules; snapshots of UVa and international history gathered by generations of UVa Law students, from the introduction of new deans to the aftermath of 9/11. As a staff, we knew we had to cover the fatal protests in the most comprehensive way possible.
Our staff GroupMe was at a near constant buzz on those two days in mid-August. We had our first issue planned and ready, but none of the jokes about starting law school or ANG’s drunken escapades felt right at all anymore. So we scrapped it and started over. Immediately we began interviewing students and faculty who were eyewitnesses to the protests for our reporting on the event itself. But more than to report, we wanted to provide a space for students to work through their emotions and sought reaction pieces from students of all years.
In my capacity as EIC, I began talking to student organization leaders at the Law School about how the Law Weekly could better reflect our community. As a result of those talks I kicked off the year with the “Spotlight Series,” where affinity groups were given a space to educate the student body about issues that their communities are facing. These Spotlights became the core of our post-August 12 issues.
In another effort to make the Law Weekly more inclusive, I offered authors the opportunity to give their pronouns so when editorials are written, the feedback can be given appropriately. I received more feedback about this editorial decision than any other this year, mostly positive, some vehemently negative.
Because I never had the forum to explain the reasoning behind providing this option, I will explain it now.
First, the inclusion of gender pronouns is a choice. We do not force authors to include them against their will; we merely extend to them the opportunity to include them—an opportunity a majority of our authors take enthusiastically.
Second, I feel that the paper should reflect the changing environment of the school. I look at old editions frequently and am aghast by announcements about “wives of law students” clubs, and the lack of women and people of color in the pictures and on the newspaper staff. But I am heartened to see how rapidly the Law Weekly has changed to reflect the increasingly diverse student bodies of recent years. The option to include one’s pronouns is a small step in the direction of increased inclusion that I believe the Law School is moving towards.
Third, though I am a cis-gender woman with a culturally feminine first name, I have received countless emails and letters to “Mr. Editor-in-Chief.” To be clear, the addition of pronouns was not meant to benefit me, but I have found that the addition of pronouns to articles I authored and to my email signature have reduced these awkward blunders.
Fourth, I have heard one phrase countless times: “But The New York Times doesn’t include pronouns of authors!” I am flattered that the Law Weekly is compared so often to such a prestigious publication. I hate to break it to you, loyal readers, that we are not The New York Times. The Law Weekly is meant to be a keeper of history, a place of discussion, common community, and humor. We make mistakes but we try to respond and do our best for the UVa Law community. The inclusion of pronouns is a small showing of solidarity with our transgender and gender-queer colleagues in a community newspaper.
Being Editor-in-Chief of the Law Weekly was the highlight of my law school career, and I want to thank all the student guest columnists, the faculty who advised us, and to the incredible team of staff writers and editors who dedicated countless hours to supporting the paper. Thank you especially to SBA President Steven Glendon, who allowed us to poke fun at him mercilessly (despite being fantastic at his job), and to my Executive Editor, Jansen VanderMeulen, who went above and beyond in his role and will do great things as Editor-in-Chief.
Finally, thank you to all of our readers. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of your law school experience. The past three years have been pure fun and I hope it showed.
1 Covering events, writing reviews, soliciting student and professor articles, planning professor interviews, workshopping jokes, and ruling on novel issues that come before the Court of Petty Appeals.