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Monday, April 11, 2011

Should Diversity be Added to the U.S. News Law School Rankings?

U.S. News Logo Following up on my previous post, California Bar Asks U.S. News to Add Diversity Component to Rankings: Robert Morse (Director of Data Research, U.S. News & World Report), Should Diversity Be Added to Best Law Schools Rankings?:

U.S. News recently received a letter from The State Bar of California asserting that our main Best Law Schools rankings would be improved by including numerous diversity-related measures. ...

There are many key questions that need to be resolved. For example, U.S. News would need to determine what scale would be used to measure diversity success for each law school. How should law schools be compared in ethnically diverse states like California and Florida with those in far less diverse states like Vermont and Iowa? Should Stanford University and the University of Southern California, both private law schools, be measured against the same scale as public schools in California like UCLA?

How should diversity at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina Central University law schools, which are part of the historically black colleges and universities, be measured? Should diversity just be based on ethnic diversity and not take into account economic diversity? How would law school economic diversity be measured? We also need to consider what the law schools themselves think about including diversity in the rankings.

Yet another important issue is to what degree diversity is linked to academic quality versus being an important social goal. There is also the key question of whether diversity should even be included in the rankings, given that the main purpose of the rankings is to identify the best schools academically.

I spoke with Craig Holden, a partner at Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith and chair of the Council on Access & Fairness for The State Bar of California, who was the catalyst behind the proposal to U.S. News, and told him that U.S. News was willing to have further discussions so we could determine the feasibility of the suggestions.

In addition, U.S. News would need to work with a representative group of legal educators and others to develop such diversity success yardsticks. We cannot do it without outside assistance and some meaningful level of agreement on the right things to measure and the correct metrics to use to measure them.

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This will destroy the credibility of the rankings.

Posted by: Michael A. Livingston | Apr 11, 2011 7:17:03 AM

Well, if they are looking for a way to push the already dubious rankings to the point of irrelevance, they have found it! Law school deans should embrace this proposal wholeheartedly as a means to free themselves from the burden of managing their schools based on rankings.

On a more serious note, as people have noted there are entirely too many factors, and most of them are subjective and subject to manipulation. Why does diversity mean only race, rather than age, religion, political views or any other category one could select. This new criterion would be the ultimate accomplishment for the forces of political correctness, reducing a quasi-academic standard to pure fluff.

On a personal level, diversity is a crock of you know what. As a conservative/libertarian who recently graduated from an ultra-liberal law school, I added more diversity to classroom discussions than any racial minority in my classes ever did. For the most part, they simply parroted the standard liberal viewpoint. Isn't law school supposed to be an academic pursuit, one in which intellectual diversity should matter?

Posted by: Todd | Apr 11, 2011 7:50:25 AM

Diversity has as much place in rating the quality of a law school as does the number of wins of its university's football team.

Posted by: Woody | Apr 11, 2011 7:56:26 AM


Posted by: Kona | Apr 11, 2011 8:39:34 AM

"Diversity," all too often, means bringing together people of different races, genders, and family backgrounds who all think exactly alike.

Posted by: MPM (UC Law '89) | Apr 11, 2011 10:33:12 AM


Posted by: Greg | Apr 11, 2011 9:03:51 PM

I can't help but note that a school with a high concentration of minority students would be penalized as not being "diverse." The few schools that have higher African American or Asian student bodies could very well be deemed non-diverse and, therefore, be ranked lower. It seems to negate the whole purpose of including diversity in the rankings.

Posted by: yahoo | Apr 11, 2011 9:54:38 PM

Bad idea, while I don't really care about the integrity of the ranking system, it seems obvious to me that law schools should be focused the creation of attorneys who understand the law and can represent their clients competently. I believe that if we define excellence based even in part on the diversity of a school's student body, the capacity of graduates from these schools to serve their clients will be placed into question.

Posted by: Norman Stiteler | Apr 12, 2011 11:45:05 AM