Over the last few weeks, the Center for Equal Opportunity has released studies documenting the extent to which race and ethnicity are weighed in law school admissions at three universities: the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and the University of Nebraska.
The analysis is based on data supplied by the law schools themselves. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a resident fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization’s website.
The data obtained from the University of Nebraska College of Law show that race and ethnicity play a huge role in determining who gets in. The CEO study found that blacks and, to a lesser extent, Latinos are admitted with significantly lower undergraduate grade-point averages and LSAT scores than whites and, again to a lesser extent, Asians.
The odds ratio favoring blacks over whites was 442 to 1. The odds ratio is a statistical device; to put things in perspective, the odds ratio for a smoker versus a nonsmoker dying from lung cancer is a mere 14 to 1.
During the two years studied (the entering classes of 2006 and 2007), 389 whites were rejected by the law school despite higher LSATs and undergraduate GPAs than the average black admittee.
Racial discrimination in university admissions is always appalling. But the extremely heavy weight given to race by the University of Nebraska College of Law is off the charts.
Not only was race weighed, but it was weighed much more heavily than, for instance, residency status.
A white resident of Nebraska in 2007 was more than twenty times less likely to be admitted than a black applicant from out of state. The former’s chance of getting in, if he had an LSAT score and undergraduate grade-point average the same as the median black admittee, was 3 percent, while the latter’s was 67 percent.
The data obtained from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University law schools likewise showed that race and ethnicity play a huge role in determining who gets in there, too. Once again, and at both schools, blacks and, to a lesser extent, Latinos are admitted with significantly lower undergraduate grade-point averages and LSAT scores than whites and, again to a lesser extent, Asians.
And, once again, the degree of discrimination found at both schools, but especially at Arizona State, was off the charts.
The odds ratio favoring blacks over whites was 250 to 1 at the University of Arizona and 1115 to 1 at Arizona State. The latter is the worst result CEO has ever found, having conducted studies like this at dozens of schools for more than a decade.
Nearly a thousand white students were denied admission in Arizona even though they had higher undergraduate GPAs and LSATs than the average black student who was admitted — and over a hundred Asian and Latino students were in the same boat with them.
Not only was race weighed but, as in Nebraska, it was weighed much more heavily than residency status. For instance, a white Arizonan in 2007 with the same LSAT score and undergraduate GPA as the average black admittee was about eight times less likely to be admitted to the University of Arizona than a black out-of-state applicant (a 9 percent chance of admission versus a 71 percent chance), and at Arizona State he would be twelve times less likely to be admitted (an 8 percent chance versus a 98 percent chance).
Obviously this policy is not a great thing for the students who are discriminated against. How about for the students who are admitted?
Well, it may not be so great for them either. If you are black or Latino, your classmates, professors, and future employers, clients, and patients will all assume that you aren’t as qualified as your classmates whose color and national origin did not receive preferences. That will often be true — but not always. You have affirmative action to thank for the stereotyping.
It hurts blacks in another way, too. A liberal UCLA law professor, Richard Sander, has collected a vast amount of data from law schools across the country, analyzed it carefully, and concluded that — because mismatching students and law schools results in more classroom failures, dropouts, and bar-exam flunking — there are actually fewer black lawyers today than there would have been without racial preferences in law-school admissions.
Unfortunately, those running American universities prefer not to be confused by all these facts. And although Justice O’Connor wrote over five years ago, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary,” there are many schools that have not diminished their discrimination by one-fifth.
It’s very unlikely that the discrimination at the University of Nebraska, in particular, will end if the school is left to its own devices. Chancellor Harvey Perlman recently declared that he is adamant about achieving a politically correct racial and ethnic mix there. When confronted with the findings of our recent study, the dean of the law school cheerfully acknowledged that race and ethnicity are factors in admission and that he has no problem with admitting students of favored races with lower academic qualifications than students of unfavored races who are rejected. (His main complaint about our study was that he didn’t see how CEO was able to do it, since he had refused to give us the racial data we asked for. He had, however, given the information to Professor Sander, who shared it with us.)
So there’s only one way to be sure that the racial and ethnic discrimination in admissions at the University of Nebraska will stop. Vote in favor of the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative on Tuesday, which will ban discrimination and preference on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in public education (including higher education), contracting, and employment.
As for Arizona: Unfortunately, the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative will not be on the ballot a few days from now, since the state officials have ruled that not enough valid petition signatures were gathered. But such efforts failed the first time they were made in California and Michigan, too, and ballot initiatives ultimately passed there.
As a result of the CEO studies, Arizonans who want to end racial and ethnic discrimination in, for instance, the state’s public university law schools now have more evidence that they should not give up either. What’s more, the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute published a report last year documenting many other instances of official discrimination in Arizona. So the CEO studies are not a huge surprise, and law schools are not the only place that discrimination is found.
We’ll be back.
– Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.