University of Washington School of Law Alumni Support for Yoshiko Saheki sign now

Dear Dean Hicks,

I am writing on behalf of concerned alumni and community members to request that you and the leadership at the University of Washington School of Law (UWLS) reconsider your decision to lay off Yoshiko Saheki at the end of April 2009. Below is a list of concerned alumni and community members with whom I have shared this letter and who join me in support of Yoshiko Saheki.

I hope this finds you extremely well, particularly in what I know must be an extremely challenging time at the University of Washington right now. I've been reading with interest about the current situation with respect to the Washington State budget, and the extreme burden that this has imposed on the University of Washington. In particular, President Emmert's recent e-mail to alumni painted a particularly stark picture of the financial situation. I know that this means you are stretching an already tight budget, and that the ability to cut certain costs at the law school is extremely limited given the school's many irreducible commitments. Nonetheless, I do feel compelled to write and express my support for anything that can be done to find a way to keep Yoshiko Saheki at the law school. As I'm sure you have heard from other alumni, Yoshiko is practically an institution at the law school to many of us, and it would be a substantial loss both now and moving forward to lose her. I know it must have been an agonizing decision to let her go, and I know it was a decision approached with seriousness of purpose. Yet, I simply cannot imagine that this is the only possible solution.

I'm not sure the of extent to which it is understood just how important Yoshiko has been, and continues to be, to many of us and our relationship with UWLS. It is not just that Yoshiko is a very kind, caring, personable, and engaging ambassador for the law school. It is also the very serious commitment that she obviously takes to every aspect of her job, down really to the smallest of details. I experienced this as a student, and have also been glad to hear from Yoshiko as an alum. Yoshiko is a dedicated employee--whose car I often saw in the UWLS parking lot on weekends and after hours and who was constantly at evening community events talking up UWLS and building relationships. I cannot tell you how many personal, handwritten, cards or notes I've received from Yoshiko reaching out to inform me about what is going on at the law school, reminding me to be involved, or (as a student) congratulating me on the smallest of accomplishments. Yoshiko obviously knows how to build and maintain lasting connections with students and alumni in a way that makes us want to remain engaged, and in a way that conjures warm memories of our time at UWLS.

Obviously, I've only been an alum for a short time, and in that time I've been nothing but impressed by Yoshiko. Let me tell you though, I would not be writing today in support of Yoshiko but for the experience I had working with her as a law student and as a member of the SBA. Yoshiko is singularly the reason that many of the events and activities we tried to put together during my time on SBA actually ended up happening. She habitually went out of her way to help us arrange logistics, find members of the legal community to work with, let us know who within the law school or the university to speak with, and was just generally extremely helpful. I chose the word "habitually" purposefully, because for Yoshiko it seems to be almost a habit to go out of her way to be helpful--even when what I asked for was well outside of her job responsibilities. This is how you make an impression on students that continues after they become graduates.

Yoshiko is also a virtual human Rolodex of the Seattle legal community. She has spent years cultivating relationships with alumni and other members of the legal community that I know pay dividends to the law school on a daily basis, and that will continue to for years to come. It isn't just that Yoshiko reaches out and talks to lawyers in the community, and it isn't just that she knows basically everyone. The reason that Yoshiko is effective is that people actually want to talk to her. I don't have to tell you how frankly unusual that is to find in someone whose job involves asking those people for money. You know that you have a good team in the development office. I think Stephanie Cox is doing a good job. I would imagine that she would agree, however, that having wonderful people like Yoshiko working in the office, people with strong alumni connections, is invaluable from a development perspective.

I had the opportunity to attend several large community events last year with Yoshiko. Not only did she go out of her way to introduce me to virtually everyone, but it was also very clear that members of the community actively seek her out at banquets and other events, to get the updates on their alma mater, to check in on the most recent developments, and just because she is interesting to talk to. Frankly, it was apparent to me that Yoshiko does not just connect members of the community to UWLS, but also to each other--introducing various alumni to each other, and letting us know how other alumni are doing and what they are up to. This cannot be anything but beneficial to the law school.

All of these reasons (and many more) are why--out of all of the wonderful staff people working at UWLS--the Student Bar Association selected Yoshiko as the first recipient of our award for student service last year. I have to tell you that when I had occasion to discuss our decision to give that award to Yoshiko last year with other former SBA presidents, including Gaurab Bansal (2007) and Cassie Little (2006), we were unanimous in our conclusion that no one deserved to be recognized more than Yoshiko.

I know that this is an unprecedented and difficult year for the law school. And I also understand the desire to direct staff reductions at non-academic personnel. This all makes sense, and when I was told that Yoshiko's position was being eliminated it frankly made sense to me. While it might make sense on paper, however, losing Yoshiko makes absolutely no sense in the real world. She is a rare example of an individual person who is a thousand times more than the position she holds.

After three years of knowing you, I know that the decision to let Yoshiko go was not taken lightly, and I know that you must have to make incredibly difficult decisions driven by simply insufficient funding sources. I think it goes virtually without saying, however, that anyone who has ever interacted with Yoshiko has been made better by it; and that is goodwill that simply cannot be replaced. If there is anything that can be done to preserve a role for Yoshiko at UWLS, it should be done. In this I guarantee all alumni agree. If there is anything that we can do to reinforce our position that Yoshiko would be an irreplaceable loss to the school, or that we can do to help preserve her position, please let us know.

Below is a list of concerned alumni and community members who join me in support of Yoshiko Saheki. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest regards,

Nowell Bamberger
SBA President, UWLS Class of 2008

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Terry FriedmanBy:
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University of Washington School of Law Leadership

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