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Faculty Spotlight: Rashmi Goel

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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Rashmi Goel, Assistant Professor at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver

As an associate professor at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver, Dr. Rashmi Goel focuses much of her research and teaching on culturally specific adjudication—where the adjudicative process takes into account the cultural background of litigants. Professor Goel says that even as far back as middle school she can remember wanting to pursue a career in the legal field. However, her interest in the legal field did not go unquestioned by her family and community.

Professor Goel's family emigrated from India to Canada, and, as she says, "Law is not usually a preferred profession for South Asian folks—at least... not immigrant South Asians." While her family and community may have expected her to go into a different area of study, namely a science-based field, Professor Goel always felt as though a career in the legal field was right for her. In particular, she says that she was always drawn to a career as a law professor. Professor Goel is passionate about teaching and about the opportunities it gives her to influence the legal field. Being a professor grants her opportunities to shape discourse, impact policy-makers, judges, attorneys, and clients, and to ensure that each new wave of law practitioners are improving the field rather than just working within it.

Professor Goel's passion for teaching comes from her own educational experience which was shaped by amazing and encouraging teachers who she says, "really took an interest in me." Now, as a teacher herself, Professor Goel cherishes the opportunity to be in a position in which she can hopefully have a similar impact upon her own students. Professor Goel tries her best as a professor to cultivate passionate students who will go on to change things for the better. She says that as a teacher, "[you] help to unleash their potential... [And] to be able to do that every day is great."

While her love of teaching propelled her to become a law professor, Professor Goel's decision to pursue a career in academics was also influenced by considerations about the level to which she could have an influence upon the legal field. Her research and publications have largely focused on ethical issues within the criminal justice system and upon ways by which such issues can be overcome.

Professor Goel has published an important piece called, "Delinquent or Distracted? Attention Deficit Disorder and the Construction of the Juvenile Offender." The focus of the article is about how the misdiagnoses or underdiagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder among at-risk youth allow these kids to be perceived as "bad kids" by adults in authority and in society at-large. When in fact, these kids are not receiving the kind of attention they need for their disorder and their symptomatic behaviors are misunderstood as delinquent behaviors instead of being understood as symptoms of a cognitive disorder. Often, nonwhite kids of lower economic strata are sent into the juvenile justice system instead of receiving treatment for their disorder.

Professor Goel says that the racialization of the juvenile justice system is so bad that in places—like North Dakota—where demographics suggest a vast majority of children in juvenile detention centers should be Caucasian, the reality is that they are not. Professor Goel reflects upon the scale of her impact as a result of this publication, "If I was an attorney, as a juvenile justice attorney in the juvenile justice system, I could save a client or two or maybe three or maybe ten from being put in that system and that would be great... and would [be] a really great role. But that article has been sent to every public defender in the juvenile justice system in Colorado and it has been used in the juvenile justice clinic work in D.C. and it is being used in other centers."

Having had several pieces published on restorative justice, Professor Goel emphasizes the relationship between the legal field and the field of conflict resolution. She emphasizes that her work on culture, difference, and racialization in the legal field are directly applicable to the field of conflict resolution, specifically to mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and restorative justice. She discusses the importance of her work, "Some of it is about making the process more fair and some of it is about making the outcome more fair; and sometimes this whole law system is not the right way to go about it [and] we have to go about it another way."

Professor Goel says that conflict resolution is an important field because it helps to overcome some of the shortfalls of the legal system, particularly in regards to change. Professor Goel says of conflict resolution, "it has a lot to do with saying the system as it works doesn't work, so let's create something new; maybe we're looking at a new legal system; maybe we're adopting a new way according rights, but something new is needed."

Professor Goel can be contacted at:

--Andrew Godziek