Paul L. Caron

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Amar & Johnson: U.S. News Should Include Diversity in its Law School Rankings

Vikram David Amar (Associate Dean, UC-Davis) & Kevin R. Johnson (Dean, UC-Davis), Why U.S. News and World Report Should Include A Diversity Index in its Ranking of Law Schools:

'Tis the season to be, if not jolly about, at least aware of, one of the most prominent law school rankings systems; the U.S. News and World Report's annual law school survey will issue in about a month. There are many law school rating schemes out there, and people who care about evaluating law schools would do well to consult a variety of them before forming impressions. But there is no denying that the U.S. News ranking system is currently the most visible. And for that reason it is – for better or worse – the one that influences the behavior of law schools the most.

In this column, we begin to analyze one way in which the U.S. News rankings can negatively affect schools and the legal profession – by deterring schools from taking steps to diversify their student bodies – and possible responses to the problem. ...

Diversity is relevant to what U.S. News is trying to gauge, but not because a diverse school is doing a good job in redressing past injustice in its state. Diversity is relevant because – as the Supreme Court has recognized and proclaimed in recent years – a diverse school provides a richer learning environment for its students, who will then be better prepared, going forward, to enter and succeed in the realm of diversity that is the entire United States and the world.

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Did I spot a typo? Should:

"Diversity is relevant to what U.S. News is trying to gauge, but not because a diverse school is doing a good job in redressing past injustice in its state."

Have been:

"Diversity is relevant to what U.S. News is trying to gauge, but not because a diverse school is doing a good job in continuing injustice in its state."

Posted by: eddy | Mar 15, 2010 1:19:13 PM

Who could have predicted that our law schools would become the richest vein of satire in the modern world. Who needs the Onion?

That, and would someone please prove beyond mindless platitudes that, "a diverse school provides a richer learning environment for its students." Really? If you're so sure about that, why not bother to empirically prove it? (Oh, right empiricism is racism, I forgot...I must be white, lemme check... uh, yep, I am. Silly me, don't I know how many times I've been told that rational thought is a racist white man's concept.)

What I noticed in law school was that the more skin-color variance there was in a classroom the more time we spent pulling our chins in a group therapy session about the "importance" of skin color and less time learning how to think or reason or advocate. Diversity doesn't foster educational excellence, it hinders it. It creates and worships sacred cows, it intimidates through force and fear. It stifles debate, and prevents the pursuit of truth.

Diversity, as used by Amar & Johnson is the death of the Enlightenment.

Posted by: Luke | Mar 15, 2010 11:12:39 AM

Apparently an appeal for more minority law students albeit with lesser qualifications. The other side of the coin is obviously the better qualified student who is denied entry. Who speaks for them? U C Davis appears to be a hostile environment for Caucasian and Asian students, presumably those who would shoulder this burden.

Posted by: Watney | Mar 15, 2010 10:56:15 AM

Look, legal education is already worthless for preparing future lawyers for the reality of the legal profession. Why? Because many of the law schools that taught a skill-based practical legal education found themselves on the low end of the US News ranking stick and, as such, have switched to the theoretical model of legal education where endowment size and law library resources are more important than job skills and job placement. In my opinion nothing has done more to corrode legal education than the US News rankings. If you doubt US News's power over the schools, just go to one on the day the US News ranking official is visiting and you will see school officials prostrating themselves upon the almighty altar of the rankings system.

Adding a "diversity" quotient to this already broken system is probably the MOST RACIST thing US News could possibly do. Why is it racist? Well, affirmative action already scores in some otherwise unqualified minorities to schools that are, quite frankly, too difficult for them to succeed. Please do not misconstrue my point, I think that if whites had some arbitrary quotient bumping up their numbers, many of them would meet the same fate. So, what happens to a minority student that is in a law school they probably should not be in? Well, many either fail out (with one or two year's worth of law school debt training for a profession they will never practice) or do just well enough to hang on. Neither scenario is good for future job prospects and, let's be honest, that is what this is all about. For those that do manage to pass, what are their bar passage statistics? The statistics indicate their bar passage rates are less than half of their non-affirmative action peers. So what is left? Thousands of affirmative action students with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt for a profession that they will never be able to practice. Law school admissions are categorically difficult not to maintain some sense of school aloofness; but instead to "save" some prospective students from themselves. Wouldn't you want someone to tell you that the $120,000 "investment" you are about to make is going to be worthless to you in three years?

All this "affirmative action" rating will do is force law schools to admit more minority students that aren't prepared for or likely to succeed in law school. This idea is so preposterous I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Amar, an otherwise brilliant legal analyst, would subscribe to it.

Posted by: Smack | Mar 15, 2010 10:55:10 AM

"The ranking should include graduation rate and debt load"

Along with hiring rate, starting salary, 10 year salary, maybe even some objective measure of skill; things that are actually relevant outside the academic realm. If diversity, however you define it, produces better lawyers, it should show up in some objective statistic that matters.

Posted by: J | Mar 15, 2010 10:38:03 AM

I have an idea - why don't the rankings of the best law schools reflect, ya know, what the best law schools actually are, rather than bogus criteria like "diversity".

The whole rationale that "diversity" exists for the benefit of the white students who will enjoy a "richer learning environment" by sitting in a class with less qualified AA admits is beyond laughable and is "racist" to boot.

Posted by: Jack Denver | Mar 15, 2010 10:24:20 AM

I went to school who felt "the diversity card" (although he put it in a less neutral way--referencing affirmative action) was like a 1 time get out of jail free card. Sure, it is OK to give someone who is disadvantaged a chance, but at some point they have to perform.

He thought that if that student used diversity to get into college and then did mediocre and got mediocre LSATs, why should that student get a second bite at the apple at law school?

I find Todd's comment funny, as the person I would identify as poster child for the most diverse monitory in the legal profession is anything but liberal--hint, he wears a black robe and works for the government in N.E. D.C.

Posted by: tax guy | Mar 13, 2010 5:54:13 PM

Why are we so fixated on diversity, as measured by skin pigmentation and gender? What about the diversity that should count in academia, diversity of ideas?

I am a 3L, and in all of my classes the "diverse" minorities typically offer the same generic liberal opinions as white students. The real diversity has come from foreign students, or even rarer, from conservatives or libertarians who have a genuinely different perspective.

Posted by: Todd | Mar 13, 2010 5:12:18 PM

The ranking should include graduation rate and debt load.
I have no clue if they do now, but I doubt the amount of student debt is factored in.

Posted by: EvilDave | Mar 13, 2010 10:28:20 AM

At this rate, schools will never be able get out from under the influence of U.S. News. Look, if schools value diversity, nothing is stopping them from admitting a diverse class (however you define diversity). This is really sad. Schools are now begging U.S. News to tweak the rankings to create an incentive to "allow" them to do something that they believe would add value to their programs.

Posted by: Don | Mar 13, 2010 8:50:42 AM