Monday, April 17, 2006
A staff member at a top law school writes:
I currently work at a top ten law school (US News Rankings) and have been a bit shocked about the general type of students that are admitted. Despite all of the focus on diversity, it seems that there is a great deal of homogeneity among the students when it comes to the socio-economic makeup of their families--most come from affluent backgrounds--at least at the school I work at.
I am concerned about this due to my background. I am from a small farming community in Idaho, the first college graduate in my family, and grew up in poverty. I have first-hand experience with the obstacles individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds face when applying to law school (I am trying to get in now).
To what extent is diversity an element of law school rankings (especially yours)? To what extent to you think socio-economic factors will come into play in the future of the admissions game? I know California tried to make up for the state's decision to get rid of race based affirmative action by introducing a socio-economic model. Has Texas ever considered a similar approach?
Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you.
Socio-economic diversity is not a factor in any of my rankings, first, because I do not know of any database that would provide the requisite information; and second, because the connection between diversity along any demographic dimension and educational experience is fairly tenuous and speculative. (Back before Justice Powell ruined public discourse about affirmative action by introducing "diversity" talk, it used to be much clearer why schools practiced affirmative action: compensatory justice and social engineering, the latter, of course, being a longstanding feature of admissions practices at elite institutions.)
That being said, I was certainly struck the year I taught at Yale Law School by how homogenous the student body was in terms of class--much more so than Texas which, ironically, was laboring under the restictions of Hopwood at that time. In fact, as a result of Hopwood, Texas did add proxies for race and ethnicity (such as class background and region of the state) to the admissions criteria; I believe they are still in place, though I am not involved with admissions (except for JD/PhD candidates, a rather small pool obviously).
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