The Corner

Affirmative Action & The Bar

Very interesting editorial in the LAT. The opening:

Americans have been debating the fairness and efficacy of racial preferences in college and graduate school admissions for more than 30 years. Now a UCLA professor is seeking to test his hypothesis that affirmative action programs actually hurt the career prospects of minority law school graduates. But he has been hampered in his research by the indefensible failure of the State Bar of California to provide the statistics he needs.

The professor, Richard H. Sander, has requested data about the performance of white and minority law school graduates on the bar examination, along with information about the schools they attended and their grades. In resisting his request, bar officials cite the need to protect the privacy of test takers and to honor an agreement that test material will remain confidential. At the same time, some defenders of affirmative action have argued against releasing the data because they think Sander’s project could have only one purpose: to discredit the idea of racial preferences.

The privacy and legal arguments strike us as spurious, a view shared by the executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, which has joined Sander and his colleagues in asking the state Supreme Court to order the release of the information. Sander has promised that no individual student would be identified by the statistics, which would break down performance by law school.

It’s also unfair to accuse Sander of seeking to dismantle racial preferences. True, his hypothesis is that affirmative action students are disserved because they derive less benefit from an elite law school than students who meet the usual admission standards. This is the “mismatch” theory, which suggests that students who are weaker than their classmates will often do better academically — and on the bar exam — if they attend a less-competitive school….

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