faculty notes
Nancy Chi Cantalupo smiling, wearing a suit with her arms crossed

Meet Nancy Chi Cantalupo

Meet Nancy Chi Cantalupo title
Assistant Professor Nancy Chi Cantalupo joined the faculty of Wayne Law in fall 2021 from California Western School of Law. She recently took a break from her busy schedule of teaching and scholarship to answer a few questions prepared by Wayne Law student Julia DeLapp.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and where have you traveled?

I grew up in southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia. I moved to Washington, D.C., for college and ended up staying there almost 25 years, during which time I also got my law degree. I then moved to Florida for my first teaching position. Throughout that time, I have taken about a dozen trips of somewhere between a week to several months to Beijing, China, to visit family, attend school, and/or teach American and Chinese law students.

What brought you to Detroit, and what has been your favorite part of Detroit so far?

The opportunity to join the faculty at Wayne Law brought me to Detroit. I love the sense of creativity, innovation and opportunity, coupled with a rich history of both highs and lows that imbues the city.

What Detroit activity, restaurant or landmark do you hope to still experience?

I am hoping to become a member of BasBlue, a new nonprofit venture by and for Detroit women entrepreneurs. I have eaten at the BasBlue Café, which is open to the public and located, along with the rest of BasBlue, in a lovely renovated Midtown building. According to the organization, Detroit has the most women business owners of any U.S. city, so BasBlue seeks to provide a structure by which Detroit women can meet, network, collaborate and mentor. It’s a fascinating concept that I am eager to learn more about.

What three classes made the greatest impact on you during law school?

Race and American Law, Administrative Law, and the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic

When you were in law school, what did you hope to achieve with your degree?

At the time, I was directing a university’s women’s resource center, where I often had to deal with issues and problems that required legal information, especially regarding civil rights laws like Title IX. I would do the legal research and walk into the meeting ready to support my position, only to get completely dismissed because I did not have a law degree, so I originally went to law school to become a more effective women’s resource center director, a job I kept while attending law school at night, not to practice law.

Have those goals changed at all, and if so, how?

They changed nearly immediately after entering law school, and yet I continued to return to gender equity in education in various iterations. Almost as soon as I was a law student, work colleagues and others began to do exactly what I had gone to law school to get them to do: They started to take what I said more seriously. As a result, the head of the department within which the women’s resource center was located — who was hostile to the women’s resource center and to me as its director — began to exclude me from meetings and other venues in which he anticipated I might have more influence on various issues that came up all the time at a university women’s center, including related to campus sexual harassment and gender-based violence. I was too frustrated to stay at the women’s resource center under such conditions, but fortunately my law degree was opening up other opportunities, and I took a junior associate post practicing administrative law. After about 18 months, I decided practicing law at a large, corporate firm wasn’t for me, so I returned to education and civil rights/public interest work, this time as an assistant dean for a law school clinical program.

During my time as an assistant dean, I began teaching law and pre-law courses on civil/human rights and gender-based violence as an adjunct professor. I also continued doing pro bono legal work, including related to Title IX and sexual harassment and gender-based violence. The pro bono work that would change the trajectory of my career was my service as “faculty counsel” to multiple student sexual harassment survivors in internal university disciplinary proceedings. During the course of that work, I and one very smart law student succeeded in convincing the university that was conducting one particular proceeding to change the school’s disciplinary processes so they no longer violated Title IX — which we argued they did by imitating criminal court proceedings that treated student sexual harassment victims and accused harassers unequally. The insights gained from that process formed the main points in my first law journal article, and I found I could not stop writing. This changed my career path because I realized that the best way to write as much as I wanted to write was to become a law faculty member.

When did you decide to become a professor? What inspired that decision?

I decided to become a law professor about five years after graduating from law school, as a result of the pro bono work I was doing to protect the Title IX rights of student sexual harassment survivors. Although I had learned the enormous power of Title IX and the transformative potential of treating gender-based violence as a civil/human rights violation through that pro bono work, I was dissatisfied with the limits on the changes I had been able to achieve — limits which did not primarily come from Title IX itself, but from inadequate compliance with and enforcement of Title IX at individual schools, by courts and by federal administrative agencies. I also wanted more people in education to see the potential that I saw in Title IX and to share strategies for using Title IX to solve the problems that I saw.

As a result, I did something I would later learn is fairly typical for legal academics: I began dealing with my frustration through legal research, analysis and writing about the problems I saw. In my writing, I diagnosed the problems that I saw hindering Title IX from fulfilling its promise with regard to preventing sexual harassment and gender-based violence and protecting students from falling victim to them. I also recommended solutions.

I loved writing about Title IX so much that I wanted to spend a greater portion of my work life on it; therefore, I decided to pursue and eventually succeeded in becoming a law professor.

Finally, if you were to describe yourself using only five words, what would you choose?

In alphabetical order: Activist, Chinese American, feminist, organizer and writer.