Writing today on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog, Peter Schmidt reports that tomorrow the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will release a report urging law schools to release data on the nature and success of their affirmative action policies. It will also urge the section of the American Bar Association that sets accreditation standards to reconsider its new “diversity” requirement, which has been criticized as an interference with academic freedom. (See here, here, here, here, and here, among others)
Among its other recommendations, the report will call for the National Academy of Sciences or some other entity to finance research on the impact of law schools’ affirmative-action policies, and it will urge state bar associations to cooperate with such research.
Perhaps this report will lead the State Bar of California to reconsider its heavy-handed decision to block access to the data it has collected on bar passage rates, a decision discussed here.
UPDATE [28 August]
An expanded version of Schmidt’s report appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education today.
The additional information that I found most interesting was reference to a letter written to the State Bar of California by Eileen Kaufman and Tayyab Mahmud, co-presidents of the Society of American Law Teachers. They urged the bar association not to release any data on bar passage rates to Prof. Sander and the two scholars working with him on this research project, Prof. Vikran Amar of the University of California at Davis, William Henderson of Indiana University, Doug Williams of Sewanee. Among other complaints about possible “misuse” of the data, Kaufman and Mahoud
argued that releasing such data could have a “potential negative impact upon minority bar applicants and attorneys,” by fueling “misperceptions that they simply are not as smart or qualified as their white counterparts.”
I wonder if the Society of Law Teachers similarly objects to the Law School Admission Council publishing data revealing LSAT scores by race, gender,and ethnicity, data which is widely avaliable. Here, for example, is a summary of data from one of its longitudinal bar passage studies:
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study was undertaken primarily in response to rumors and anecdotal reports suggesting that bar passage rates were so low among examinees of color that potential applicants were questioning the wisdom of investing the time and resources necessary to obtain a legal education. There were no reliable sources of national empirical data to support or refute those claims. When the LSAC committed to conducting this study, it was done with the conviction that the information was vital to legal education regardless of the outcome. If the dismal failure rates being reported in whispers were accurate, legal education would need to rethink both its admission and educational policy and practice. If they were false, they needed to be replaced with accurate information.
The eventual passage rates for racial and ethnic groups were: American Indian, 82.2 percent (88 of 107); Asian American, 91.9 percent (883 of 961); black, 77.6 percent (1062 of 1368); Mexican American, 88.4 percent (352 of 398); Puerto Rican, 79.7 percent (102 of 128); Hispanic, 89.0 percent (463 of 520), white, 96.7 percent (18,664 of 19,285); and other, 91.5 percent (292 of 319).
It would appear that the Society of Law Teachers does not agree with the Law School Admission Council’s “conviction that the information was vital to legal education regardless of the outcome.”
Has the Society of Law Teachers informed the LSAC of its objection to the release of data on bar passage rates? Has it informed the College Board that no data revealing SAT scores by race should be published? Has it informed law schools that graduation rates by race should be kept secret?
If not, why not?
UPDATE II [28 August]
For those of you without access to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Schmidt has a working link to his article on his blog, here. He also has a link to the full report of the Civil Rights Commission, which is not yet available on the Commission’s web site.