Thursday, January 25, 2018
National Jurist op-ed: A Different Take On Why Law Schools Are Not Admitting More Black Students, by Robert Steinbuch (Arkansas-Little Rock):
I read the recent National Jurist article, Why aren’t law schools admitting more black students?, with great interest. The article demonstrates an unfortunate truth: the intersection of race and law-school admissions remain obscured by confusion over basic facts. I hope to bring some clarity to these matters here.
Let’s start with the explosive (and patently wrong) claim that recurs throughout the article’s first eight paragraphs: that black applicants are discriminated against in law school admissions. For example, the author poses the following inquiry and response: “Is it possible that law schools are discriminating against African-American applicants, even in this day and age when diversity and inclusion are such paramount goals? Law school leaders and admissions officers, no doubt, would swear up and down that is not the case. But the numbers tell a different story.”
No, they really don’t.
For example, in data from 40 law schools gathered from their 2005-2007 admissions cycles, the median odds ratio on black compared to white admissions was 150 – meaning black applicants had far greater odds of admission than white applicants. At a large majority of these law schools, if you examine what we can call the ‘credential point’ where white applicant had a 10 percent chance of admission, comparable black applicants had a better than 80 percent chance of admission. Here’s the bottom line: the claim that law schools are generally biased against black applicants relative to white applicants is not only incorrect, it’s ridiculous. When black and white applicants with similar credentials apply to any given law school, black applicants are far more likely to gain admission than white applicants, and even more likely to be admitted when compared to Asian applicants. (The latter phenomenon is known in the literature as the ‘Asian Tax.’ A more apt label would be a ‘soft quota’ that caps Asian admissions to law schools.) ...
I’m reminded of the maxim in medicine that if you go to a neurologist, he’ll find a neurological problem, and if you go to a gastroenterologist, she’ll find a stomach issue. The idea, of course, is that professionals like to find solutions using their skills. I appreciate that some lawyers and law professors like to believe that the under-representation of African Americans in law, relative to their presence in the population, can be addressed through the law-school admissions process. This belief is mistaken.