Excerpted From: Maritza I. Reyes, Planning, Executing, and Documenting the 2022 Inaugural Graciela Olivárez Latinas in the Legal Academy (“Go Lila”) Workshop - A Chair's Account and Introduction, 26 Harvard Latin American Law Review 123 (Spring, 2023) (142 Footnotes) (Full Document)


MaritzaIReyes.jpegOn June 24-25, 2022, Stanford Law School hosted the 2022 Inaugural Graciela Olivárez Latinas in the Legal Academy (“GO LILA”) Workshop. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was held virtually via Zoom. Stanford Law School Dean Jenny S. Martinez and the Planning Committee of the 2022 Inaugural GO LILA Workshop welcomed over 70 participants who joined for two days of programming aimed at supporting and mentoring Latinas in and aspiring to enter, succeed, and lead in the legal academy. Participants included fellows, law professors at all stages of academic careers (including deans), and retired law professors. The members of the Planning Committee for this inaugural workshop were nine law professors, including one dean: Raquel E. Aldana, Leticia M. Diaz, Nadiyah J. Humber, Emile Loza de Siles, Solangel Maldonado, Rachel F. Moran, María Pabón, Laura Padilla, and Maritza Reyes (collectively the “Planning Committee”). The work and time devoted to this project was a labor of love in furtherance of our community.

The first GO LILA Workshop was historic as the “first” during a time when our schools and workplaces were adjusting to our changed realities due to the global pandemic and the national and global changes it caused. The workshop included plenary sessions for conversations with guests of honor who were the “first.” On Day 1, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and woman of color Supreme Court Justice, joined for a conversation that was moderated by N.Y. Court of Appeals Associate Judge Jenny Rivera (previously a tenured law professor at CUNY Law). On Day 2, recently-appointed Supreme Court of California Justice Patricia Guerrero, the first Latina on that court, and recently-elected president of the Harvard Law Review Priscila Coronado, the first Latina in this role, joined for a Q&A discussion. Dean Martinez, our host, was the first Latina dean of Stanford Law School.

My interest in starting a workshop for Latina law professors began after I learned about the Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Writing Workshop (“Lytle Workshop”). During a LatCrit Conference, a fellow Latina law professor asked one of the Black female law professors involved in the Lytle Workshop whether she could attend. The professor asked the Latina: “Are you Black?” This question helped us to understand that Black female law professors wanted this space for Black women. I respected the forthrightness of the message and considered that Latinas face similar and different circumstances that warrant having a space for ourselves. My Latina colleague and I started asking if there was a similar workshop for Latinas. Everyone we asked said no. We could not understand why not. I asked Latina law professors why there was no sense of urgency about starting a workshop, like the Lytle Workshop, in light of the challenges we face as Latinas. I also asked for their concerns about starting a workshop. These are some responses I received via e-mail:

Response #1:

There was lack of solidarity.

Response #2:

The very successful women in legal academia often pretend that their experience was a walk in the park and do not tell the truth.

Response #3:

[U]niversities routinely pit people of color from a given group against each other. This is incredibly common, but no one who experienced it has been willing to write about it. As a result, it has not been “named” as a common pattern and folks pretend to be shocked, shocked that something like this could go on.

Response #4:

Many Latinas, especially those who practiced law, are shocked at the lack of the most basic workplace protections. Black women have a history of struggle and solidarity that goes back centuries. Those traditions are deeply empowering. There is also a societal expectation that Black women stand up and fight. I am not surprised that they wind up in leadership positions. Many Latinas, by contrast, came to the US as children or are not far from our immigrant roots. The social support is not there for them. The social stereotypes are quite different--and the penalty for violating those stereotypes is swift and fierce--mimicking what happens in studentteaching evaluations but with consequences that are far more dire.

Response #5:

I, too, experienced the lack of social support .... My experience trying to share my story with Latinas is that I was not believed or supported. I was left to fend for myself, which I did .... It was only when I read the first volume of Presumed Incompetent that I understood what had happened to me. She was literally telling my story without knowing it had happened to me. Why did I not get support from Latinas? Why was everyone pretending that they had never encountered any difficulties on the road to tenure and full professorship when I later learned that this was not true? Probably because Latinas feel so marginal in academia that they regard truth-telling as an admission of weakness. They continue to overwork and to “fake it until you make it.” In short, I see lots of things going on here. Greater headwinds due to culturally engrained expectations and stereotypes--and harsher penalties for violating those stereotypes. Lack of social support. Lack of truth-telling. Lack of the cohesive community that Black women have always had-- even before Lutie Lytle ... At the end of the day, Latinas are more likely to make sense of what is happening to them from reading a book than from talking to other Latinas. I was wary of the GO LILA project. More often than not, it seems that Latinas are complicit in the abuse around them (by their silence, by their willingness to criticize women [a Latina who is no longer in the legal academy] who spoke up over and over). The criticism of [that Latina] has shocked and disappointed me.

These responses demonstrate the pain and internal dynamics we have not addressed as a community. I wanted to fulfill the goal of getting this workshop started before I leave the legal academy; I wanted to pay it forward and hopefully create a support system for the Latinas who need it most and also for the ones who may not need it as much but will still benefit from the support and resources this community will provide. I began my work as organizer of the workshop and Planning Committee. I was subsequently elected chair by the Planning Committee. During the planning of the workshop, the Planning Committee discussed the importance of documenting the history of the workshop. I reached out to the Harvard Latin American Law Review (HLALR) about a symposium issue to do this. The HLALR editors agreed to include a special symposium issue for the Planning Committee's contributions. Six members of the Planning Committee participated in this symposium issue.

This Article is my account of the decisions, collaborations, and work required to convene the first gathering of Latinas in the Legal Academy (collectively “LILA” or plural “LILAs”) for a two-day workshop we hoped would be the first of many to come. It includes some of my perspectives as I led the effort and some of my reflections about why we needed this workshop. It documents what happened during the planning and execution of the inaugural GO LILA Workshop from my perspective as chair of the Planning Committee. It also provides some of my goals and reflections as I did the work and moved forward--pa'lante.

Part II introduces the essays submitted by members of the Planning Committee. Part III describes the origins of the inaugural workshop. Part IV outlines our initial decisions, including those about the selection of the Planning Committee, our meetings, the mission, the name of the workshop, and how to distribute information about the workshop. Part V explains how we kept the communications, work, materials, and workshop organized via the TWEN platform, e-mail, the GO LILA Workshop website, and Zoom.

Part VI describes how we began to build our community and prepared participants for the workshop by keeping them informed through detailed communications and thoughtful consideration of comfort matters, such as breaks and ready access to share presentations. Part VII showcases highlights from the first day of the workshop, session by session. Part VIII does the same for sessions that took place during the second day of the workshop. Part IX informs about the interest in future GO LILA workshops and how the Planning Committee ensured that there is a solid foundation for future workshops. Part X expresses my gratitude to several stakeholders, supporters, and allies who helped me to fulfill my goals as chair of the Planning Committee and get this long overdue workshop started. Part XI includes my closing remarks.

[. . .]

Most LILAs in the U.S. legal academy teach in predominantly White institutions (“PWIs”) because most law schools in the United States are PWIs. I teach in the only historically Black college and university (“HBCU”) law school in the Southeast where I was the first Latina/o (man or woman) hired in the tenure track. I was the first Latina/o (man or woman) to achieve tenure and the only one thus far. I was also the first non-Black woman to be tenured and remain as the only non-Black woman tenured professor to date. The challenges I faced on the road to tenure did not get better after tenure. As Professor Marcia Allen Owens described, achieving tenure, for some Black women, does not necessarily mean that the conditions of employment improve within HBCU academic workplaces. Professor Allen Owens, an African American woman, teaches in the same HBCU where I teach. The experiences of Latina law professors in HBCU law schools have not yet been published, perhaps because there are few of us and we are the “first.” Because the diversity of professors is important, similar to a diverse student body, the number of Latina/o/x law professors in HBCUs should continue to increase.

There are six HBCU law schools. The first Latina hired in the tenure track in one of them was Ana Otero, hired in 1998 at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law (Houston, Texas) and tenured in 2008. I was the first Latina/o hired in the tenure track at Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law (Orlando, Florida) in 2009 and tenured in 2015. Mariela Olivares was the first Latina/o hired in the tenure track at Howard Law School (Washington, D.C.) in 2011 and tenured in 2017. Willmai Rivera-Perez was the first Latina/o hired in the tenure track at Southern University Law Center (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) in 2011 and tenured in 2017. After Professor Olivares, Professor Rivera-Perez, and I were hired, there have not been additional Latinas/os/xs hired in the tenure track in the law schools where we work. My anecdotal and website research indicates that North Carolina Central University School of Law (Durham, North Carolina) and University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (Washington, D.C.) have not hired a tenure track or tenured Latina/o/x professor.

My hope is that the GO LILA Workshops will provide a forum where we can explore the experiences of Latinas in the legal academy, including in HBCU law schools. There is an increasing Latina/o/x presence in the large cities where the six HBCU law schools are located; therefore, Latina/o/x law professors may be best positioned to analyze, research, and publish how those demographic changes affect the different communities within those law schools. LILAs who teach in HBCU law schools may also be able to share different perspectives, including about the erasure of Latinas in the Black-White paradigm of race within the legal academy. I expect that LILAs who teach in PWIs (the large majority of LILAs) will consider that LILAs who teach in HBCUs (the small minority of LILAs) also need a space where we can discuss our experiences and receive support as we navigate some similar and different workplace dynamics and situations.

I considered that my participation in this type of initiative on behalf of LILAs may not be well-received within my institution and even beyond. However, I was not going to leave the legal academy without at least trying to start a workshop for LILAs. The GO LILA Workshops will help Latinas in the legal academy to find community and get advice beyond generic teaching, scholarship, and service information we can get at other conferences. My hope is that there will be a holistic approach to the GO LILA Workshops - to provide a venue where we can discuss matters we may not be able to discuss within our law schools, including because we are the first, the only, or simply because other people do not want to hear what we face because they do not face the same challenges and situations. I also expect that Latinas coming together will help to develop scholarship that tells our stories in the legal academy without whitewashing our experiences. Why should Latinas not contribute our voices and experiences? Let's develop our community and tell/write our stories. GO LILAs! ¡ Si Se Puede!


Professor of Law, Florida A&M University College of Law; Harvard Law School Post-Graduate Research Fellow (2008-2011), LL.M., Harvard Law School; J.D. summa cum laude, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law.