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Confronting History, Elevating Advocacy

Donna Young

ALBANY LAW SCHOOL AND THE UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY have created a dual J.D./M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a cross-institutional course, Race, Rape Culture, and the Law. “The dual degree provides a professional pathway for students to expand their understanding of complex social and legal issues,” Professor Donna Young said, “which I believe will make them better lawyers and advocates.”

Young’s course—taught in partnership with UAlbany Professor Janell Hobson—addresses sexual harassment and assault laws and how those laws have affected the treatment of race, gender, identity, and sexuality in the United States. Students learn how the laws have contributed to normalizing, and in some cases trivializing, various forms of violence and harassment, Young said. “A critical approach to studying the law is beneficial to understanding and addressing a host of seemingly intractable problems that we are facing today.” She added that the dual degree program—leading to employment in law, advocacy, community organizing, nonprofit work, and other areas—is especially useful “for those interested in representing and empowering survivors of sexual violence and people of color who face racism and other forms of discrimination.”

Albany Law School’s Delaney Rives Knapp ’19, who took the inaugural fall 2018 course, said it was vital to her understanding “the relationships of power and coercion in the development of our nation’s laws.” “The seminar provides students the opportunity to confront some of the worst moments of our history,” Knapp said, “with hope for a better future.”

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