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Monday, April 25, 2011

Affirmative Action for Law School Deans

Kenneth Oldfield (University of Illinois-Springfield) has published Social Class-Based Affirmative Action in High Places: Democratizing Dean Selection at America's Elite Law Schools, 34 J. Legal Prof. 307 (2010). Here is the abstract:

Education reformers have argued for some time that America's law schools should seek greater demographic diversity among their students, faculty, and administrators. These reformers say this increased diversity will enhance the learning environment by exposing those involved to more perspectives on important questions and issues. Diversity advocates argue that recruitment and placement policies should be redesigned so the major demographic characteristics of law students, faculty, and administrators more closely resemble those of the public. This project examines diversity in relation to the socioeconomic origins of deans at America's top fifty law programs. The survey results show that notwithstanding gains on other demographic fronts, deans at these elite programs disproportionately come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. The discussion closes by offering specific steps that schools can take to ensure greater socioeconomic integration among their deans.

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Diversity is such a buzz word. Has anyone ever proven a postive effect from diversity?

I attended Cornell Law when a prominent black activist posed with a gun in front of a building,. He wanted a separate black housing unit, Ujamma House. He got it. My trips to campuses for various reasons show that groups seem to self-segregate. In a few cases I know about some black students were chided for hanging with "whitey."

What does "diversity" teach when black and Hispanic students disproportionately drop out? Or fail to pass the bar? What lesson was in fact learned?

Law school will always be undiverse because most people don't have the smarts, desire or funds to get and stay in. I confess as someone who supported Hubert Humphrey and affirmative action (at first), I just don't get it anymore.

Posted by: Ed D | Apr 25, 2011 12:25:36 PM

Being a dean is not really a job to aspire to. People usually get into teaching and scholarship becuase they like to teach or research. From my personal observation, the most qualified/skilled/etc. academics usually do not want an administrative job--especially the dean's job. The job is terrible--one administrative nightmare after another, and the turnover is very very high. The success or failure of a dean is measured by the ability to raise money for the law school (and to not give up in the face of the petty in-fighting and bickering). Given the function of the job, out of the few who would even be interested in the job, the ones who can raise the most money should be selected to fill these jobs (and they probably are in most cases). If they fit a certain demographic, then great. If they do not, then equally great.

Posted by: lawp | Apr 25, 2011 3:12:34 PM

The comment by Ed D should be posted on the bulletin boards in every law school and calmly debated.

Posted by: Woody | Apr 25, 2011 5:36:04 PM

Do the authors really believe that the pool of applicants from poor families has the same raw talent as the pool of applicants from affluent families? That would be the case in a fantasy world in which intelligence and personality were not both hereditary and highly correlated to income. However we live in the real world.

If you want to help the poor, how does discriminating in favor of the most talented offspring of the poor accomplish this? Those people will succeed on their own. Is the real point to claim government credit for their success?

Affirmative action worthy of the name should operate in the broad middle range of talent, not at the upper end where nobody needs any extra help. For jobs that do not require exceptional talent, training and attitude make all the difference. That's where government should invest for the benefit of the poor.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Apr 26, 2011 9:31:46 AM