Letter to the Editor: Dean Anthony Varona

The following is a reprint of a written statement issued by Seattle University School of Law Dean Anthony Varona at 11:29 am on Jan. 25. 


Dear Seattle U Law Community –

Good morning! Thanks to the many of you who participated in our Diversity Week events yesterday afternoon and in our Dean’s Luminaries in Law Conversation with Starbucks EVP and General Counsel Zabrina Jenkins, Esq. Extra special thanks to the student leaders and staff colleagues who ensured the great success of all of the events.

I write to provide an update to my message from Monday morning about the January 18th Seattle Spectator article focusing on Professor Burk’s fall Civil Procedure course. As I shared with you, we had arranged for an expedited inquiry by the University’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) into the accuracy of the two most serious allegations reported by the Spectator (i.e., that Professor Burk “called Native Americans savages on the first day of class” and that he “designated Brown students as terrorists”).

The OIE’s expedited inquiry involved the review of over five hours of relevant class recordings, including the entire first class, and a review of class transcripts. The inquiry concluded that the alleged statements were nowhere in the reviewed recordings or transcripts. Professor Burk neither called Native Americans “savages” nor “Brown students…terrorists.”

As I noted in my message on Monday, the law school and the University, through its Campus Climate Incident and Bias Reporting Protocol, have addressed other student concerns throughout the fall semester. We will continue to engage in this important work in collaboration with the OIE as appropriate, with the goal of ensuring the most positive learning and working community at the law school. 

Even when certain allegations turn out to be unsubstantiated, as was the case in this inquiry, we wholeheartedly acknowledge that we need to undertake restorative work with our 1L class to address the additional concerns expressed by our community members, in the Spectator and elsewhere. We will continue to work hard to protect and grow our richly diverse community, and to ensure that all of our students have a welcoming and empowering educational experience here at Seattle U Law.

I hope to share more information about these efforts soon. 

Very best,

Tony Varona