February 17, 2013
Recap: What’s Your EQ?

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On Monday, February 11, SPEAK hosted “What’s Your EQ? The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Legal Profession,” a panel discussion on the need to develop and increase emotional intelligence while in law school in order to be better prepared to enter the workforce. The featured speakers were:

Greg Gorospe, a partner at Jones Day, focusing on real estate law and corporate finance

Susan Tobin, Ohio Legal Rights Services General Counsel

Christopher Walker, Assistant Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, focusing on constitutional litigation and administrative law

The event was moderated by Moritz 3L Nicole Chatham, who set the tone for the event by introducing the audience to the concept of emotional intelligence as it relates to both law school and the workplace. In doing so, she noted that the goal of SPEAK is to foster communication among and between the faculty and students of Moritz and that, in preparing for this event, she was struck by how well the development of emotional intelligence aligns with the organization’s goals. Further, this concept is highly important to employers right now. Studies have shown that a manager’s level of emotional intelligence is correlated with the productivity of the division of a company she is responsible for. A division led by a manager with a high level of emotional intelligence can overperform by up to 20%, whereas a division led by a manager with a low level of emotional intelligence can underperform by up to 20%.

First, the panelists were asked to discuss their personal backgrounds and how their experiences had developed their perception of emotional intelligence.

Ms. Tobin and Mr. Gorospe evolved the discussion by reflecting on their childhood experiences. Ms. Tobin noted that she grew up in Cleveland during a time when the city was ahead of its time in terms of becoming racially diverse. She observed that a major issue the city was forced to overcome was kids coming from different areas into integrated elementary schools. Further, she faced challenges in terms of gender discrimination head-on, as she was the first female to try out for men’s tennis team in high school. These experiences meant that, early on, she developed a sense of social justice and injustice. Mr. Gorospe spoke about the challenges his father faced as a pathologist in Warren, OH. He came from the Philippines into a community where there wasn’t a large Asian population.

Professor Walker suggested that emotional intelligence is something you learn by trial and error. To illustrate this point, he used examples from his own life. In high school, he put on a “diversity week” in collaboration with his classmates, coming away believing the event to have been successful. Later, the school newspaper published a letter asking how the school could celebrate Asian American cultural day on December 7,

He also tied emotional intelligence into the concept of “learned fundamental attribution differences.” In short, this phenomenon occurs when someone else does something that offends us. When they do so, we have a tendency to ascribe a moral deficit to them. Understanding and working around this belief is integral to success in the legal system.

Next, the panelists discussed professional experiences that they’ve had that were affected by emotional intelligence or a lack thereof. Ms. Tobin said that she deals with people lacking in emotional intelligence on a regular basis, given that her agency advocates for people with disabilities and the widespread stigma and devaluation of people with disabilities. She tied this in to the reaction to the school shooting in Newtown, CT and the assumption that people suffering from mental illness are more dangerous than the rest of the population. She also cited the use of seclusion rooms by Columbus City Schools to deal with children who have emotional disturbances and other disabilities. Professor Walker discussed a trial where he represented Isreali corporation against an American corporation. The counsel for the American corporation talked in the opening statement about how Professor Walker’s client client was from Israel and their base of operations was in Tel Aviv. Therefore, the firm was “taking jobs from Americans.” In short, the attorney presented a xenophobic case for why they should win, which violates common standards of emotional intelligence. Mr. Gorospe spoke about an incident that occurred when the economy collapsed. A young associate who historically performed well eventually stopped coming to work because of lack of assignments coming in due to economy. It turned in to a teaching moment for older associates, when Mr. Gorospe examined the driving factors of his behavior. He had always been successful and couldn’t understand why work wasn’t coming his way. After addressing the situation, the associate’s performance improved markedly.

The panelists also discussed the consequences that lack of emotional intelligence can have in the workplace. Ms. Tobin said that a lack of emotional intelligence will cause productivity to go down. At times, people are promoted for reasons other than emotional intelligence, which later negatively impacts the organization because their managers don’t have that skill when leading their employees people. Professor Walker stated that culturally competent leaders are better at what they do because that skill leads to more creativity and more empathy. Mr. Gorospe noted that lawyers have a very low level of emotional intelligence in comparison to other professions. Given that law is a customer-based industry, he said this can have devastating effects on productivity. Lawyers are generally resistant to change, which may be impacting the effectiveness of large law firms. Middle market firms are the most successful right now, which may be because their size promotes quicker change.

After taking a number of audience questions, another SPEAK event came to a close. We’d like to thank all of the audience members in attendance, the SPEAK executive board for their work in preparation for the event, and, most importantly, our wonderful speakers for contributing their valuable insight to this important discussion.

October 25, 2012
Recap: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

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On Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012, as a part of Diversity Week at the Moritz College of Law, SPEAK hosted “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: Reflections on the Media’s Objectification of Women” in Saxbe Auditorium. The event, a panel discussion on how the objectification of women plays out in womens professional, personal, and social lives, featured:

Beckett Broh, Director of Diversity, Columbus Academy
Ellen Deason, Professor of Law, Moritz
Liz Shirey, Senior Project Manager, Big Change Strategies
Sierra Austin, Ohio State Women’s Studies Department
Katrina Lee, Professor of Law, Moritz

It was moderated by rockstar 2L Ranjana Unnithan and co-hosted by the Women’s Legal Society and the Moritz Student Bar Association.

The discussion was preceded by a Monday evening screening of Miss Representation, a documentary exploring the effects that the media’s objectification of women have had on the representation of women in influential jobs and leadership positions. If you missed the screening, more information about the film can be found here

The event began with each of the panelists discussing her perceptions of the problem. Each affirmed that the media does, in fact, unfairly objectify women. Professor Lee noted that the problem starts in early childhood when women are exposed to Disney princesses. Not only are Disney princesses scantily or sexily dressed, they also promote the expectation that women should be seeking men and that men are there to save women. Sierra Austin, whose research focuses on the intersection of race and gender in the media, pointed out that women of color are particularly misrepresented in movies and television.

Each also noted that women are not to blame for the media’s objectification, but Dr. Broh further expounded that individuals do have to think about how they contribute to the objectification. Liz Shirey pointed out that men can’t be exclusively blamed for the problem and that they also can be burdened by these media messages. Images of male heroes and sexually aggressive or controlling men also perpetuate negative expectations for sexual and personal relationships with women. 

The problem is goes even deeper than that, too, starting at a basic cultural level. Dr. Broh discussed stereotypes of men and women in our culture and media. She noted that men are subject to fairly uniform expectations, but women are not. Women are portrayed as sexual objects, which may clash with their professional aspiration.

Each then talked about how objectification in the media had manifested in their own professional experience.

Lee talked about her time in litigation. During preparation for one trial, her male colleagues posted a life-size cutout of Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Though she found the action offensive, she pushed ahead in her work without discussing her feelings about it.

Austin discussed the specific stereotypes about black women, and noted that they had been a barrier to her professional projects. She has had a much more difficult time getting funding for her research because she is focused on issues involving black women. 

Professor Deason spoke about a time when she gave a presentation about oceanography. After the presentation, one of the members of the council she spoke in front of approached her and said that it the presentation would have been improved had she been wearing a bathing suit. 

Broh spoke about her upbringing in the 1970s. As the first girl to go to summer camps or play in sports leagues in her town, she felt like a pioneer and an outsider. She received signals from the community that her interests were not “normal” for a girl. She noted that messages like this can lead to insecurities about women’s bodies and even eating disorders.

Shirey discussed how her experiences in the workplace have been affected by the portrayal of sexuality in the media. She discussed an instance where a leader of an organization concluded his meetings by making jokes about taking women home from the bar. She addressed the problem with him and he ended up acknowledging that it was an issue.

The panelists also answered a wide array of audience questions, ranging from the role of religion in creating pervasive sexism in our society to the balance between negative body image messages in the media and the real benefits personal health & physical fitness to the perception that women are “nagging” when they bring up issues that concern them.

In all, it was a wonderful event and an illuminating discussion. SPEAK would like to thank all who attended, our moderator, and each of the speakers for helping to make You Can’t Be What You Can’t See and Diversity Week a success.

October 4, 2012
A great shot of our amazing Fisher v. Texas panelists.

A great shot of our amazing Fisher v. Texas panelists.

September 26, 2012
Recap: Fisher v. Texas

On Tuesday, September 25, SPEAK hosted its first panel discussion of the year. The topic was a timely one. Five panelists were invited to speak about Fisher v. Texas, the affirmative action case scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on October 10, 2012.

After opening remarks from Executive Director and panel moderator Nikki Baszynski and brief introductions from each of the panelists, Sharon Davies, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute, laid the background for Fisher. She began with a 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and traced the developments in college admissions to two 2003 cases, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger. Those cases, the last in which the Supreme Court directly considered affirmative action in higher education, generally protected the right of universities to use race as a limited factor in a holistic approach to admissions. The Court rejected (in Gratz) the use of race in a quota-like system. Essentially, every individual needs to be considered as an individual and race cannot be the predominant factor in the decision. 

Discussion next turned to Fisher itself.

Melinda Molina, a professor of law at Capital University, presented the arguments of the petitioner, Abigail Fisher, and respondent, the University of Texas. Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin. The school’s admissions policy automatically admits the top 10% of every high school graduating class in the state of Texas to the University. Then, the remaining spots are given to individuals who undergo a holistic evaluation of their applications, where race is considered (Molina described it as “a factor of a factor of a factor” at this stage in the admissions process). Fisher argues that the holistic evaluation stage of the admissions process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution because there University has another way to achieve diversity - the top 10% method. The University of Texas argues that considering race as it fills the remaining spots of its incoming classes does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. 

Gary Daniels, associate director of the ACLU of Ohio, spoke about his organization’s interest in the case. The ACLU filed an amicus brief in this case, addressing both the case itself and a brief filed by the Cato Institute. The brief, which can be found here, was designed to directly address and refute the arguments Cato Institute brief. In his remarks, Daniels emphasized the “watered down” nature of the University’s admissions policy. He expressed nervousness that, if this admissions policy fails before the Supreme Court, the ability of universities to consider race as a factor in admissions will be effectively eliminated. 

Chris Walker, a professor of law at the Moritz College of Law, spoke about the possible outcomes of the case. Walker noted the idealogical makeup of the Court when Grutter was decided. The author of the Grutter decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, has left the court and was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, whose philosophy is substantially more conservative than O’Connor’s. He noted that there are numerous outcomes the case could have despite this change. Many of those outcomes seem dependent on the decision of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s likely swing vote. If Justice Kennedy, who dissented in Grutter, rules for the University of Texas and affirms the Fifth Circuit, Grutter would be upheld. It is also possible the Court, by ruling for Fisher, would significantly narrow the holding in Grutter, making the consideration of race in college admissions a practical impossibility. He also put forth a third option, believing that the Court could simply remand the case if it determines the Fifth Circuit misapplied the Grutter test.

Kathy Northern, the Dean of Admissions at the Moritz College of Law, spoke about the effects a Fisher holding limiting the ability of law schools to consider race in their admissions process would have on Moritz itself. She began by detailing Moritz’s current admissions policy, which considers academics first. Then, the college considers what an applicant would contribute to the student body, a standard that includes race and ethnicity along with a host of other factors. If Grutter were limited, that process would likely have to change. If Grutter is overruled, the college were no longer able to consider race at all the admissions process.

Nikki then opened up the discussion for questions. The audience made inquiries on a variety of topics, including the use of race in primary and secondary education admissions and placement, as well as the benefits of diversity. The panelists also spoke convincingly about why the issue of affirmative action is so important and evokes such a passionate response from Americans of all types.

In all, it was an informative, thought-provoking, and engaging discussion. If you didn’t make it for this event, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved coming up. Thanks to the SPEAK executive board for planning the event and to the members of the student body who attend. And special thanks to the panelists who joined us today, whose names are listed below:

Gary Daniels, Associate Director, ACLU 
Sharon Davies, Executive Director, Kirwan Institute & Professor of Law, Moritz College of Law 
Melinda Molina, Professor of Law, Capital University 
Kathy Northern, Dean of Admissions & Professor of Law, Moritz College of Law 
Christopher Walker, Professor of Law, Moritz College of Law

September 4, 2012
Recap: Kick-Off Event

Today, SPEAK hosted its first event of the year, a kick-off session.

The agenda featured introductory remarks from our faculty advisor, Dean Robert Solomon, a chance to get to know the SPEAK executive board, an overview of the organization’s mission and methods from Executive Director Nikki Baszynski, and a mock SPEAK session.

Today’s topic: Jeni’s vs. Graeter’s.

The (totally fictional) scenario: the Ohio State Law Journal serves only Jeni’s at its staff meetings. Some editors are unhappy about this. A SPEAK session is held to resolve the disagreement.

After a substantive and far-reaching discussion during which the participants shared their concerns and perspectives, a pair of (hypothetical) solutions were reached. Either Graeter’s would be exclusively served at a couple of upcoming staff meetings or a few pints of Graeter’s would be served at every meeting to accomodate those who just can’t stand to eat Jeni’s.

The purpose of today’s session was not to resolve a fictional dispute, but to illustrate the way that SPEAK solves problems. First, identify a problem. Then, hold a SPEAK session designed to come up with a solution. Finally, initiate institutional change based on the results of the session.

 If you missed today’s session but are interested in getting involved with SPEAK, you’ll always be welcome to do so. Future events and opportunities to participate will be posted on this blog, our Facebook page, our Moritz student org site, our TWEN page, and around campus.

Ice cream

September 3, 2012
Welcome

SPEAK logo

Hello and welcome to SPEAKeasy, the official blog of SPEAK.

SPEAK is a student organization at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law dedicated to improving communication and initiating systemic change in the school setting. We’re doing so by encouraging open and honest dialogue among Moritz students.

This blog’s purpose is to both chronicle SPEAK’s activities around Moritz and highlight the systemic change we see around school.

Tomorrow, we’re hosting a kick-off event in Drinko Hall 348 at 12:15 p.m. If you have questions about what, exactly, SPEAK does or want to see a session in action, this is a perfect opportunity for you. See you there!

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