Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The Daily Beast op-ed, Law Schools Fudge Numbers, Disregard Ethics to Increase Their Ranking, by Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.):
Law schools will always manipulate whatever metric U.S. News employs in its ranking, ethics be damned. But ethics for the moment aside, the most harmful consequences wrought by these machinations lie beneath the surface. To increase their LSAT medians, law schools have shifted the bulk of scholarship awards away from need-based to merit-based. In other words, students from wealthy families used to pay full price, while students from less well-off families would receive scholarships. Now those who score below the median on the LSAT are the ones paying full fare, while those who score above get financial aid, whether or not they need it.
It’s a reverse-Robin Hood redistribution scheme: Since well-off students tend to do better on the LSAT due to advantages throughout their education (including their ability to afford test prep courses that improve their LSAT score), the students likely to earn the least in their careers end up defraying the educational expenses of the students who will earn the most. This manner of allocating scholarships also systematically funnels students from wealthy families to higher-ranked schools and students from middle-class families to lower-ranked schools (you can forget about the poor). ...
It is inevitable that the elite legal positions in the coming generation —- in the Supreme Court, Justice Department, corporate bar, and law professoriate —- will be dominated by children of the wealthy. Pursuing prestige and revenue without heed to the consequences, legal educators are responsible for this. Yes, the rankings are a part of it, but in the end they are just numbers; human beings choose how to use —- or misuse -— them. The sad irony is that many law professors are liberals who claim to fight for the less privileged in society, yet through our own conduct we are further enhancing the advantages of the one percent.