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HLS as a Unifying Experience

Marisa Schnaith, HLS ‘15

For some weeks now I have deliberated on the issues posed by Professor Margaret Montoya’s piece, or rather, what I understand it to pose, based on conversations with friends (I, admittedly, have not read it –I think it’s sufficient to excuse this lapse by virtue of my being a 1L, when law school life is still hard).

I struggled with how to respond to this prompt. I have many self-imposed identities: I am a woman, I am a liberal, I am a Mid-westerner, I am a Jew, I am an LGBT ally, I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I am a rugby player—I am many things that make me different from my peers. But right now, the thing that I have most in common with my peers, is that, in this moment, I am a student. I came to school to learn, to explore the world of law, to use my many identities to inform my experience, and to make a decision about what I want to do with my life.

I am struggling with the idea of the “outsider” because I believe, perhaps naively, that none of us here are outsiders by virtue of the fact that we are all students, and we are all here for the same purpose: to get an education. I see our differences and multiple identities as enriching our learning experiences. Those parts of us that might not seem “mainstream” are exactly the parts of us that are to be celebrated and learned from, not masked in fear of being labeled an “outsider”. We are here to learn and to continually mold ourselves and who we are and what we think, which cannot happen if we “mask” the precise things that make us different and unique and give us a new perspective to share with our peers. I urge my fellow students to preserve their identities and declare them with confidence and pride, and simultaneously I urge my fellow students not to look at these identities as limiting categorizations.  Listen to each other, learn from each other, share with each other, and then be whoever you are after that.

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