Law school's Class of 2020 uses gift to help fellow students

In a break from tradition, this year’s graduating class at the UO School of Law has decided to use its class gift to help law students whose lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gift will go to the Oregon Law Cares Fund, which provides unrestricted support that directly and immediately benefits law students dealing with the coronavirus. Current students at Oregon Law can apply for the funds at this link.

The announcement on the class gift was made during the law school’s virtual commencement ceremony May 30.

Usually, the class gift would go towards an improvement to the law school. However, the class representatives, Eric Maul and Drew Betts, said it seemed inappropriate under the current circumstances to focus on a place rather than people.

Drew Betts and Eric Maul “The class gift is supposed to be an item that makes life better for all students, and, while this donation will not touch the lives of every law student at the U of O, it could make all the difference for a few people dealing with some very difficult financial choices right now,” Maul said.

Jennifer Espinola, the law school’s dean of students and the fund administrator, said Betts and Maul made a bold, compassionate choice to contribute the Class of 2020 gift of $2,100 to the fund.

“I was proud of our student leaders for choosing to consider the unique circumstances facing many of our students during this incredibly challenging time,” she said. “They wanted to help, and they had a powerful way to do it.”

Espinola said students who have applied for Oregon Law Cares funds will get help with their most basic needs, like rent, groceries and medicines, providing a bit of relief to students when they need it most.

Betts said using the funds to make sure Oregon Law students feel adequately supported and heard was extremely important to both her and Maul.

She said Oregon Law students across the country have lost postgraduate employment opportunities or summer job offers and are without income. Some have spouses who have been laid off while others are parents, studying for the July bar exams without proper child care while they study.

“With the outbreak of COVID-19 and now the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s more important than ever that we look after each other, and students in our own community have been disproportionately been harmed,” Betts said.

Both Betts and Maul describe Oregon Law as a close-knit community and said there is a strong bond among students.

“The graduating class of 2020 is full of fierce student advocates,” Betts said. “We look after each other, we speak out against inequality and we fight for what we believe in.”

—By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications