Student Spotlight

Tylenda ’24 Publishes Scholarly Article on Book Bans

Meg Tylenda ’24

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Meg Tylenda ’24 has always loved to read. Growing up with access to a variety of stories, relatable characters, and opportunities to learn about different people and cultures was a formative piece of her education. It became a foundational part of her undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech. While there, she completed an Honors College reading seminar that focused exclusively on banned books in American society. As she researched, the idea of banning books—beyond the American headlines—came into play. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.A. in Philosophy, a B.S. in Sociology, and a double minor in Global Engagement and Peace Studies/Violence Prevention in May 2021. She was curious to continue her education and noticed that law interacted with many of the themes she was passionate about.

As a Capital Region local, returning closer to home for law school was the right fit for her. And a more tight-knit law school compared to Virginia Tech’s almost 30,000 undergraduate population has been a great way to get the hands-on experience and faculty guidance she was hoping for at this stage in her education.

Meg Tylenda

Guided by Dean Rosemary Queenan, she started to pursue research on the legal angle of an international framework to address banned books worldwide. So, when working on a publishable piece for her Note & Comment for  Albany Law Review, Tylenda knew it was time to dive into this idea.

She soon learned book banning was a largely  American issue. She delved into the topic and got it published in early 2024. Her article "Banned Books & Banned Identities: Maintaining Secularism and the Ability to Read in Public Education for the Well-Being of America's Youth," has been published by the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality.

“Publishing and being on a journal were two of my goals coming into law school. I would like to teach down the road, and I recognize that publishing is a really big part of getting hired as a professor. I knew that it was important that I started and I felt like this was a good place to start. [Dean Queenan] was very receptive to that as well, and gave me incredible feedback on how to differently structure it. We flip-flopped sections around to make it read better. She would send me different links to articles when she'd see them. It was really helpful to have both her feedback and just her unwavering support,” she said.

The article presents a possible future of diminished secularism creating a detriment for students who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as those who do not, and the harm it would create. 
“Students having access to literature that represents them or challenges them to learn about people different from themselves is essential to lessening mental challenges and inequalities faced by LGBTQ+ students and, without a standard that includes a formal review process for schools, the risk of detriment to mental health only increases,” she wrote.

Tylenda reflected on the different characters, stories, and experiences she grew up with and how formative they were. The idea that children today may not be able to have the same experience, or worse, be harmed by a world that does not see their experience or identity as valid, was terrifying. 
“I think that it's important that even if children can't interact with someone that might be like them, if they grow up in a place that might not be diverse, they at least have something that allows them to know that [who they are is ok] and they can see themselves represented,” she said.

Tylenda came to law school without intending to be a practicing attorney, instead she wanted to learn the law and the legal way of thinking for her future as a professor. She still hopes to teach, of course, but she has found many other avenues of interest in her time at Albany Law.
She has served on the Student Bar Association all three years as a law student. As a class representative for her 1L and 2L years and in her final year, she is serving as Executive Treasurer. 

“My 1L year, myself and another senator, Hannah Merges, planned an end-of-year barbecue for the whole school. That was after exams. It was really fun. Then 2L year [the 2L class senate]  planned the Barristers’ Ball at the New York State Museum. It was amazing to see our visions come together. But it's been a good experience and especially in the treasurer role, I think I've gotten a good amount of leadership experience as well.”

Her time on the Albany Law Review has also given her an inside look at the publishing process from the other side. 

“It's definitely a lot of work. I am now the executive editor for Justice Commentaries, which is one of our four issues. I get to reach out to all of the authors when I like their work to make offers and say, ‘please publish with us’ essentially. That's been a terrific experience. I have some really interesting articles and student notes going in my book, one of which I actually got to work on as a research assistant,” she said.

She’s worked in the Immigration Law Clinic within the Edward P. Swyer Justice Center. There, she had two clients and she helped work on employment authorization, naturalization, and a consular processing case. 

“It was really cool to see a little bit more of the technical aspect [of practicing]. I had taken immigration law fall of 2L. It was a great learning experience to put some of that knowledge into practice and witness firsthand how it impacts an actual person trying to navigate the process,” she said. “I also got to work with an interpreter, and I think that that was a really valuable experience. Client interviewing skills are very valuable anyway, but having to work with an interpreter I think increased that level of experience.” 

Reading—and the power of knowledge—remains a guiding force for Tylenda. And if she were to offer any advice to incoming students, it’s to take in as much as you can. 

“When I have a new professor, I like to read their work a little bit, even if it's not something that I have a previously established interest in , because I just like to know something else about the professor’s interests and work. I had Dean Queenan for civil procedure. And while I was taking that class, the law school posted on social media sharing her article about exhaustion and the IDEA and we had just learned about exhaustion [in her class]. I really admired the way that she wrote and also learned that education law was a path one could take. I did not know that. I spoke with her about it and ended up taking her education law class last spring and then did a summer internship focused on higher ed law . And I found that a lot of the things that I’m passionate about have such heavy overlap with the law and higher ed; I’ve honestly made a complete 180 from what I came in [to law school] intending to do. But I am so thankful for all the interests I’ve developed further and learning I’ve done here,” she said.

Meg Tylenda