Let's face it—Baltimore has a reputation.
This city is known for many wonderful things: the Inner Harbor, the Orioles and Ravens, world-class arts institutions, historic neighborhoods, authentic dive bars and some of the most exciting universities in the country, including ours. But it is also known for crime, drugs and mean streets.
Recently the rougher aspects of Baltimore's reputation have predominated. The death of Freddie Gray in police custody, and the unrest that followed, reinforced the impression of Baltimore as the violent city of Homicide and The Wire. For a week in late April, Americans were treated to 24/7 images of a burning drug store, frustrated young people and a curfew enforced by the National Guard. "Baltimore is burning," CNN intoned.
Those of us who were here know the coverage was overblown. On one tense night—Monday, April 27—anger turned to violence in some neighborhoods. Yet in the days that followed, conflagration was replaced by peaceful demonstrations and constructive dialogue.
Certainly Baltimore faces challenges, including persistent pockets of poverty, a diminished economic base and pervasive distrust of law enforcement in communities of color. So do too many other U.S. cities. But for that week in April, it was Baltimore's turn to symbolize the problems of urban America on cable TV and talk radio.
What does all this have to do with our law school? Everything. We are proud of who we are: the University of Baltimore. We are not just in the city. We are of the city.
Our school is located in the heart of this great old town. It is an integral part of the city’s past and present and will help shape its future. Our graduates preside in courtrooms, boardrooms and conference rooms across the city. The president of our university is a former three-term mayor of Baltimore. Local lawyers and judges teach UB students the value of expanding access to justice. Our clinics provide legal services to vulnerable populations throughout the city.
In other words, our law school has an opportunity and a responsibility to make Baltimore a better place.
This issue of Baltimore Law explores some of the many ways our law school is woven into the fabric of the city. You'll read about UB alumni working to expand economic vitality and social justice through their work in the city’s law firms, government offices and nonprofit organizations. You'll learn about law school graduates making the city beautiful through efforts as varied as art projects and real estate investing.
Freddie Gray's tragic death and the events that followed have only intensified the importance of our law school's role. When Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Baltimore to meet with community leaders, she came to UB. Our professors have been at the forefront of public commentary about legal and social issues in the city, while UB alumni are on both sides of the pending criminal case against six Baltimore police officers. We are positioned to help shape changes in law and policy that emerge from this period of ferment.
I am not a native Baltimorean. But in the three years since I became dean of the UB School of Law I've come to love Baltimore. I'm fascinated by its rich legal history, its dynamic municipal politics and its vibrant cultural life. I appreciate more than ever the central role our school plays in this wonderful city.