Professor Bernadette Atuahene Named a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow

Thursday, September 26, 2019
Bernadette Atuahene
Professor Bernadette Atuahene

Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Bernadette Atuahene has been named a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow. The Soros Equality Fellowship program supports innovators and risk-takers striving to create and develop new ways of tackling the systemic causes and symptoms of racial disparity and discrimination.

The fellowship includes a stipend of $100,000 over the course of 18 months, which fellows will apply to specific projects. Atuahene’s project will build on her academic research by creating a comprehensive guide and user-friendly, interactive information hub that communities can use to fight back against racially discriminatory property tax administration.

“I am honored that the Soros Foundation has chosen to support my work,” Atuahene says.

Atuahene has done extensive research on inequalities in property tax assessments in Detroit. Michigan’s state constitution prohibits property tax assessments from exceeding 50 percent of a property’s market value. When Atuahene analyzed assessment and sales data from 2009-2015, she found that 55-85 percent of properties in Detroit were assessed substantially above the state constitution’s limits and that this was the most pronounced for lower valued properties. Despite the city assessor’s attempt to decrease assessments in select districts in 2014 and 2015, lower valued properties still saw little to no relief. The result led to thousands of foreclosures and had a disproportionate impact on African-American communities.

“Being named a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow is an amazing achievement and a testament to Bernadette's groundbreaking and critical work on discriminatory property tax administration,” says Chicago-Kent Dean Anita K. Krug. “Her plans for her time as a Fellow - to help harmed communities - are just as inspiring.”

Atuahene has been a member of the Chicago-Kent faculty since 2005 and is also an American Bar Foundation Research Professor. Her scholarship focuses on the confiscation and restitution of property. In her first book, We Want What's Ours: Learning from South Africa's Land Restitution Program, Atuahene introduced the concept of “dignity takings,” linking the unconsented taking of property rights and the deprivation of dignity. She teaches Law, Policy and International Development; Property; Trusts and Estates; and International Business Transactions at Chicago-Kent.

The 2019 Soros Equality Fellowship program is part of the Open Society Foundations, which are the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. This year’s class is comprised of a diverse group of 18 artists, advocates, lawyers, and organizers working on a wide range of projects.

Click here to read the 2019 Soros Equality Fellowship Open Society Foundations press release.