Thursday’s race relations update.

I was amused to see my work described on the ACS blog as “a bit conservative”. I guess I can live with that. After all, my favorite supreme court justice is David Souter.

I was reminded of my 1L post on law school leftism today. (If you read it now, the rest of this will make more sense.)

When I arrived at school this morning, a group of mostly minority students were congregating in the courtyard, preparing to start a protest about the lack of racial diversity on campus. The idea, I gather, was to enter classrooms to give students a sense of what UCLA was like before Prop 209 ended racial preferences, and cut down the number of minority students admitted.

As I’ve stated elsewhere on the blog, I’m opposed to Prop 209 in education. Schools should be able to admit whomever they want, for whatever reason. (I have no opinion on Prop 209 outside of education.)

But I had a difficult time understanding why students would protest on the UCLA law campus about diversity and Prop 209. Isn’t that a textbook example of preaching to the choir? What’s the point? Possibilities I discarded:

To raise awareness about the lack of diversity at UCLA? Any competently perceptive law student can see the homogeneity of our student body. Just about all of us went to colleges outside the UC system which were much more racially diverse.

To persuade people who are opposed to racial diversity? This is a null set. Who is opposed to diversity? Not even Nino Scalia.

To persuade the administration to consider race in admissions? That would be illegal. You may not like the law, but if UCLA law broke it–and they’re probably at least bending it already–they’d open themselves to liability. How is liability a positive thing?

I had to conclude that the point of the protest was personal expression and not, in the words of Gene Sharp, “something that can win”. One group of people wanted another group of people to know how they felt about an issue, even though the 2nd group already agreed.

If people really dislike Prop 209, why aren’t they focusing their energies on “something that can win”? Like, oh I don’t know, starting a campaign to repeal Prop 209? Collecting signatures? I’m not trying to be snide. I’m genuinely perplexed why, in a state where anyone with enough time & patience can get a measure on a public ballot, people would not want to put their efforts toward a solution. In 2+ yrs on the UCLA campus, no one has ever asked me to sign on behalf of an anti-Prop 209 ballot measure. I would be happy to do so.

Dean Schill update! Did the Dean sit idly by when word of this protest reached his desk? No. I have it on good authority that Wednesday night, he called at least one prof whose class was targeted and suggested he stay home today.

Now, everyone pause to think about that. At first glance you might think the Dean was capitulating to the protesters by taking a prof out of the way. But if Schill had removed the prof, his class would’ve been canceled and part of the protest would’ve been neutralized before it began.

As far as I know, everyone showed up, classes went on, and no fistfights broke out (perhaps someone who was in one of the protested classes can comment–I wasn’t there.) But Dean Schill once again showed his preference to manage potentially offensive speech by preventing it altogether.

My reason for writing is to emphasize both the importance of free expression, but also the importance of tolerance and respect. One of the things I love most about this school is that these virtues are in abundance ... Overwhelmingly, we believe in and practice spirited debate; but we do not demonize each other or treat each other in an uncivil or disrespectful manner even when we feel very deeply about the point at issue. This is what it means to be part of an intellectual community ...

Our dean, the champion of free expression! Huzzah!

03 Nov 06

Comments

MB,

I was in Beard’s National Security Law yesterday when the demonstrators made their statement.

Unlike you I think there should be, and is a dire need for, affirmative action in public education institutions in California. But I was really put off by the demonstration yesterday. Obviously they are preaching to the choir and they went about it rudely in Beard’s class.

The demonstrators came into to our NSL class two minutes late. Beard was just starting his lecture when about 20 people, two equipped with video cameras, marched into the classroom. At the front of the room one of my favorite people in the entire school, Nikki Brown, stood and commanded attention. When she started to speak Beard cut her off. He told her that she needed to ask the class whether or not they want to hear from her. He explained that it should be the classes’ choice who addresses them. When he asked her how long she wanted to take of class time she paused for a minute and they responded with something along the lines of, “less time than you just took.” Fucking rude.

Another man came in the side door 10 minutes later and stood at the front of the class room taping Beard. Beard asked him to leave and then focused his attention on the other cameraman. The other cameraman said he was from CBS news and Beard told him to leave. The CBS guy already taped the entire class by the time he left. Many students were uncomfortable with being on camera.

About 30 minutes into class another 20 or so demonstrators marched in and disrupted class before they found seats. Beard did a good job of keeping the class going. At the end of the class Professor Beard left 25 minutes for the demonstrators to address the class and explained that he support affirmative action in public schools.

As much as I personally like the people involved and support the cause I thought the demonstration in Beard’s class was rude and lame. If they would have contacted Beard in advance I am sure he would have opened the floor to them. Most students adore Beard and I am sure many were put off by how he was treated. I did hear the Schill (Mr. No Back Bone) was notified and emailed the faculty the students who pulled this off could have gone about it much more productively.

EAS

Posted by: EAS at November 3, 2006 10:40 AM

If I went into a class that I was not enrolled in, interrupted the professor, and then gave a political lecture, I would not expect to be a student at the school much longer. Along the lines of EAS’ post - do the leaders of these organizations realize that they are alienating many of their core constituencies (liberal law school students/professors)? I really wonder if they don’t realize they are alienating people or they do realize it but believe it to be more important to get this particular message out?

Posted by: at November 3, 2006 01:20 PM

I agree with MB that the protest seemed much more about self-expression than about advancing any kind of argument. In fact, I was sort of surprised that there was so little substance to the whole thing: all I saw were some statistics showing that minority representation has declined at UCLA since Prop 209 passed. There was no discussion of why this is, what it means, or how it should be dealt with.

And Che Guevara t-shirts, all-black outfits, and homemade arm bands are probably not the best idea when trying to get others to take you seriously. But, I guess they work when all you want to do is show that you’re really pissed off about something.

Posted by: UCLA law student at November 3, 2006 02:28 PM

EAS, thanks for the first-hand account. BTW, I am not opposed to affirmative action. Per above, I am opposed to Prop 209. Schools should be able to use racial preferences if they want to.

However—this is where I get “a bit conservative”, I guess—I think if schools want to treat certain students differently using racial preferences, they should disclose the bar passage rates for students admitted under affirmative action vs. others.

Or, if you think that’s potentially too ‘stigmatizing’, how about disclosing bar passage rates for each quartile of entering LSAT scores. That’s race-neutral. Students could compare their score to the historical data and get a rough idea how they will fare.

Or if you think that’s still too stimgatizing, drop the public disclosure, but ask the ABA to require, as a condition of continued accreditation, that law schools keep their minority bar pass rates within a certain number of points of their white bar pass rates. Today, those gaps are shockingly large.

If the diversity demonstrators are looking for something productive to do, I seriously encourage them to go see Schill or Carbado and request UCLA’s bar passage rates for the past 5 years, broken out by race. That would be a genuinely valuable contribution to the diversity discussion.

Posted by: MB at November 3, 2006 03:21 PM

a bit conservative = uses brain on occasion

Posted by: at November 4, 2006 02:08 PM

“Any competently perceptive law student can see the homogeneity of our student body.”

I don’t know if I’m a competently perceptive law student or not, but I do know that I am a member of the law school’s racial majority. While I am aware of the school’s lack of diversity in a general sense, it’s not something that I think about in my daily interactions on campus. My sense is that minority status is a much larger factor in minority students’ experiences. To the extent the protest was designed to help majority status students relate to the experiences of minority students, I’m supportive of that goal. It sounds like the students in the disrupted class were made to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. As someone who wasn’t there it’s difficult for me to judge, and I certainly don’t condone rude or abusive behavior by any member of the community for any reason, but maybe this was a greater success than you thought.

Posted by: J at November 10, 2006 12:06 PM

Personally I was only uncomfortable because Professor Beard, a jewel of this school, was treated disrespectfully.

I feel like it wasn’t sucessful because I think it ultimately alienated the people who are supportive of the need for a more diverse campus.

Posted by: EAS at November 22, 2006 09:56 PM


Self-expression pt. 2.

From: Share JD

To: UCLA law school students

Date: 13 Nov 06, 3:26am

Two weeks ago, students of color from the UCLA School of Law and from the community organized a walk-in to UCLA Law classes, in recognition of the 10th anniversary of California’s Proposition 209. Passed in 1996, Proposition 209 represented an alarming reversal of many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement via affirmative action, and created a more hostile social and economic climate for people of color and women in work and education.



Many political analysts continually note that as one of the largest states in the Union, California often sets a legislative tone for the nation. This proved true last week, as voters in Michigan passed Proposition 2, which similarly revokes affirmative action protections in Michigan. The President of the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman, has since made a powerful public statement to UM students, to the state, and to the nation, by announcing that the University of Michigan will not comply with Proposition 2, because it promises to systematically shut students of color, particularly those from working-class backgrounds, out of higher education.



For many of the students at UCLA Law, Proposition 209 was passed before we had the necessary information or even were of the legal age to vote. But as people who now have an extraordinary degree of access to legal education, we have the opportunity to apply our ethics, sense of justice, and energy to help guide the University of California towards a more equitable relationship to education. We also have the chance to demonstrate our solidarity and commitment to the students of color who are or should be at UCLA Law, and to each other as students who believe that education should be a tool to remedy inequality, oppression, and social problems.



What you can do: This Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents will meet at UCLA. Undergraduate student organizations have already been organizing extensively to plan for a march and rally to coincide with that meeting. Law students will be convening at 10:45am in the Law School Courtyard, to join the student rally at 11am at Covel Commons. Join us!



We are in a position to demand that the UC Board of Regents follow the example set by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, in refusing to comply any longer, with misguided, racist, and reactionary attacks on civil rights in California education!





From: MB

To: Share JD

Date: 13 Nov 06, 7:14am

I support your objectives but I disagree with this protest.

1) Mary Sue Coleman did NOT say she “will not comply” with Prop 2. While she said she would explore “every legal option” to “overcome the handcuffs”, she also said “Of course the University of Michigan will comply with the laws of the state.”

You erode your credibility when you misquote someone in order to bolster your own case. (Especially as law students, who are supposed to know the value of diligent citation.) The error is worse since it’s unlikely most of the recipients of this email will bother to check the source, and will take your misquote as the truth.

2) The protest is apparently premised on “follow[ing] the example of ... Mary Sue Coleman, in refusing to comply”. Since Coleman has NOT refused to comply, it’s incorrect to invoke her name here.

Of course, maybe it would be productive to do what Coleman is REALLY doing–exploring the legal options available to lessen the impact of the anti-diversity law.

But asking the Regents to violate the law is just not a pragmatic position. I can suggest two productive activities for members of the law school who are concerned about Prop 209:

+ start collecting signatures for a new ballot initiative to repeal Prop 209.

+ demand that the law school disclose its bar passage rates by minority group, and expose the inequality in education that still exists.

13 Nov 06

Comments

Since when did the word ‘racist’ change meanings? Sure, prop 209 could be characterized as having a disproportionate impact; but racist? As MB pointed out with regard to the moot court incident, racism requires intent. Affirmative action could be characterized more fairly (although still not very fairly at all) as racist than prop 209.

Posted by: at November 13, 2006 06:03 PM

Re: the above comment-

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m not really sure what you mean when you write that “racism requires intent.”

“Racism” is not a legal term, so it doesn’t make sense to describe it in terms of the elements of an unlawful action. “Unlawful discrimination” is a legal term (by definition), which may or may not require intent depending on the law in question (14th Amendment or Title VII?). When it comes to attitudes, as opposed to illegal conduct, I think most will agree that we are capable of unconscious discrimination, or harboring racial prejudices without being fully aware of that fact. Some might call that racism.

Moreover, since a piece of paper (even a state constitution) can be neither consciously or unconsciously racist, I think Share JD is suggesting that those who voted for Proposition 2 were motivated (consciously or unconsciously) by racial prejudice.

That being said, I think the language in the Share JD email was unnecessary, and that a lot of the people who voted for Proposition 2 (and Prop 209) probably did so for wholesome reasons.

Posted by: Fellow law student at November 13, 2006 08:08 PM

When I said “intent” should be a prerequisite to calling someone racist, I meant “intent to make a certain statement”, not the higher standard of “intent to be racially offensive”.

Speakers of racist statements don’t usually intend to offend anyone. But they do, as a result of ignorance or cloddishness. So unconscious racism that comes out that way is still racism, and speakers should be held accountable.

Share JD might find it educational to go back and read the Grutter majority decision more carefully. While the Supreme Court did finally allow racial preferences in higher education, it was out of a sense of current necessity, not long-term desirability.

As O’Connor said, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary”. 539 U.S. at 343. So to portray affirmative action as some sort of permanent benefit of the civil rights movement is misguided.

Grutter didn’t say that affirmative action is not racial discrimination. To the contrary, the whole point of the case is that affirmative action IS invidious racial discrimination. What Grutter held is that in the context of admissions to higher ed, that discrimination is acceptable.

Prop 209 probably tried to accomplish too much, too soon. But we should all be interested in a world where affirmative action isn’t necessary because the gaps between racial groups have disappeared.

Posted by: MB at November 13, 2006 09:15 PM

I’m doubtful ShareJD would sign on to the Grutter reasoning. Still, I don’t see where they portray affirmative action as “some sort of permanent benefit of the civil rights movement”. They do say that gains will be reversed, but that doesn’t necessarily imply a belief in permanent entitlement.

Posted by: at November 15, 2006 10:41 AM

Re permanent benefit: to me, when Share JD describes Prop 209 as an “attack[] on civil rights in California education”, it sounds like affirmative action is being portrayed as a fundamental ingredient of civil rights. This strikes me as imprecise. But my interpretation may be wrong, and I am happy to be corrected.

However, I have not heard back from Share JD regarding my original email.

Posted by: MB at November 15, 2006 01:43 PM

Fair enough. Somehow I don’t think you will hear back from them. If you follow your own take on it, dialogue might just get in the way of self-expression.

Posted by: at November 15, 2006 02:12 PM

Though we are both just trying to interpret the meaning of Share JD’s statement, I believe you are wrong in posing that they are necessarily advocating the permanence of affirmative action. On its face, the statement that an “attack on civil rights in California education” does not indicate a specific durational preference of the existence of affirmative action, nor any permanent preference. It is not clear from the statement either way. One could as easily believe that it advocates the majority position in Grutter. The arguments are not definitive. Should you be curious, perhaps you should ask them to find out for yourself.

However, I believe with certainty that Share JD is concerned with the current state of diversity at the UCLA law school and feels that affirmative action is necessary to help stem the decrease in racial diversity that has taken place post-Prop. 209. I think that this is a legitimate argument to consider wherever you may fall on this issue. Although there are arguably inherent inequities in admissions as a result of affirmative action or affirmative action-like policies, the inequities predicated by inadequate education, environments, and support, among other factors that many underrepresented minorities combat during earlier stages of their development are unjust as well, and possibly more so, thus requiring the necessity of affirmative action in the first place.

You can try to rationalize or reason this situation to mete out an explanation, but it may be useful to adopt this approach: While it is arguably unfair in both respects (an unfair situation for certain groups followed by a solution that remedies that situation to an extent, but creates unfairness to other groups as well), isn’t this a value judgment that society makes to cope with situations of scarce resources (in this case, admissions spaces)? In a situation like this, to give to one requires taking away from another. Someone’s going to be unhappy in either circumstance. This is not just applicable to race-based policies. Since you and I (fellow UCLAW students) attend a public school, part of our education, our benefit, is subsidized by and at the expense of others. (Yes, our tuition is higher relative to most of the university, but the costs to us would still be much higher without any public funding). In essence, we have both benefited from this social policy, a form of affirmative action from an economic sense, because society has placed a higher value on providing subsidized education to those who may be less able to afford the full cost of that education, and of course, at the expense of the taxpayers.

So ask yourself this: Do you think it is more equitable for the underrepresented to have more representation in the context of university admissions by temporarily having affirmative action at the expense of the overrepresented whom are hurt without the more formal notion of fairness? (I am making the assumption that the majority of society would not want affirmative action permanently once enough parity is reached.) This may be the essential question, and you could go either way with this and make a somewhat reasonable argument.

Personally, I feel that when for example, Hispanics are closing in on composing half of the surrounding population, yet represent possibly only around a half or third or even a smaller proportion of future lawyers from a law school ordained to serve the public, it is something that society may want to rectify or at least inquire to its occurrence, as well as the possible dangers of not having a more representative body. While Grutter eliminated the use of racial quotas and allowed its continued use as a factor, I believe this was the Supreme Court majority’s way of creating a mechanism to maintain as much fairness as possible in accordance with keeping to the Constitution’s principles and the wishes of the People.



For now (and I reserve the right to change my opinion as this situation unfolds over time), my value judgment is yes, that it is more beneficial to have equal representation, even though it may be somewhat less fair for the admissions prospects of others (and I am of the overrepresented, so my admissions chances could have been lower under a system of affirmative action as well). Still, I believe it would have been worthwhile to provide this remedy to current and past unfairness, to stem future unfairness to those worthy groups, even at the expense of and the creation of some unfairness to myself and people of my ethnicity. This is the value judgment I have made, and the value judgment that I hope society will continue to adopt as long as it is necessary.

I hope you can respect this sincere opinion, as I can respect yours, and would be happy to further elaborate over a personal discussion if you should so desire.

Posted by: citysquire at November 19, 2006 02:32 AM

I’m not sure I follow your argument. Do I think affirmative action is generally a worthwhile method of boosting minority enrollment? Yes.

But is affirmative action legal at UCLA law school? No. And Share JD is not going to make any headway by demanding that the school break the law.

The issue here is not results (we can all agree that more minority students = better) but methods. Sometimes I wonder whether the students who attend these protests are happier to maintain the status quo and complain about it, rather than take steps that might improve the situation.

Posted by: MB at November 19, 2006 07:56 AM

Citysquire wrote the following:

“Although there are arguably inherent inequities in admissions as a result of affirmative action or affirmative action-like policies, the inequities predicated by inadequate education, environments, and support, among other factors that many underrepresented minorities combat during earlier stages of their development are unjust as well, and possibly more so, thus requiring the necessity of affirmative action in the first place.”

While this is a good theoretical argument for race-based affirmative action, this is not how race-based affirmative action is in fact practiced. No one is checking to make sure that the black and Hispanic applicants who are admitted to colleges and law schools have led underprivileged lives.

Admissions committees are mainly looking for black and Hispanic applicants with relatively good grades and high scores. If a black applicant was raised by successful scientists in Nigeria, so be it. The New York Times ran an article a couple of years ago pointing out that most of the black beneficiaries of affirmative action at Harvard College were the children of (or were themselves) relatively successful recent West Indian and African immigrants.

So, affirmative action is almost always about skin color, nothing else. Obviously skin color still matters a lot in this country, but if one is going to defend affirmative action I think it’s important to defend it as it is in fact practiced.

Posted by: at November 19, 2006 01:40 PM

That is true. Race-based preferences are different than preferences based on socioeconomic status (SES). SES preferences, unlike race preferences, are legal under Prop 209.

However, schools don’t tend to use them because most low-SES students are white, so SES preferences don’t improve the representation of African-American or Hispanic students that much (if at all).

UCLA law school tried using SES preferences in the 90s, after Prop 209 ended racial preferences. See www.law.ucla.edu/sander/ClassBased.pdf for a summary of this project.

Posted by: MB at November 19, 2006 03:01 PM

MB: Do you know why they stopped the SES preferences?

Posted by: at November 20, 2006 03:00 PM

Obviously, I wasn’t around then. But I assume it was because the SES preferences didn’t improve the representation of nonwhite students, which had dropped precipitously after Prop 209. See the article for specific stats on the change in racial representation at UCLA law.

Posted by: MB at November 20, 2006 03:26 PM

But it WAS significantly increasing the number of students with low SES. Who cares about poor white kids I guess.

Posted by: at November 20, 2006 04:19 PM

You’re right: in a strict race-based preference system, a poor white kid gets hosed, because they’re competing directly against wealthier white kids. And they will usually lose.

One positive thing to come out of Prop 209 is that it has forced the UCs to use more subtle & creative means to detect which students deserve an admissions preference.

For instance, in the UC undergraduate application, students are specifically encouraged to write a personal statement concerning family background, personal circumstances, etc.

This way, a “poor white kid” (and any other kid, regardless of SES or race) has an equal chance to make their case, rather than having so much depend on a single “Race / Ethnicity” checkbox.

However, UCLA’s undergrad diversity is pretty weak, so this system, while clever, is still arguably inadequate.

Posted by: MB at November 20, 2006 04:51 PM

SES is still practiced at UCLA and nearly every school in the country. Poor white kids are in fact getting in as well as poor minorities. At what rates? There are no admissions breakdowns by a combination of economics and race. Your assumptions are of speculation. Race is in fact, still a consideration in addition to a whole host of other factors, hence the term “socio-economic”. Does that make any sense to you guys?

About affirmative action, many still brand SES as a form of affirmative action because of its race component. So this is how affirmative action is practiced in its current sense, with the traditional sense being quotas. Reread Grutter if you have ever read it in the first place.

Posted by: at November 20, 2006 10:35 PM

If you’re saying that affirmative action used to take the form of quotas, and now it takes the form of SES preferences, I don’t agree.

If that were true at the Univ of Michigan, there wouldn’t have been any Grutter or Gratz litigation at all, since SES classifications are not facially unconstitutional.

But, since most schools keep their admissions procedures a secret, there aren’t enough facts here to make this particular issue discussable.

Posted by: MB at November 20, 2006 11:42 PM

Anonymous at 10:35 PM,

You wrote:

“Race is in fact, still a consideration in addition to a whole host of other factors, hence the term “socio-economic”. Does that make any sense to you guys?”

Most people use the term “socioeconomic status” to refer to wealth, income, education, and relative social position (thus the “socio”). It is usually *not* used to refer to race, although race may correlate with socioeconomic status.

As MB pointed out, when socioeconomic status alone is considered, it is mainly poor whites that benefit, both because there are more poor whites than poor blacks (in absolute, not relative, numbers), and because poor whites still have slightly higher incoming credentials than poor blacks.

People “still brand SES as a form of affirmative action” not “because of its race component,” as you suggest, but because it *is* still affirmative action—that is, it is a preference based on something other than one’s academic qualifications. Affirmative action can exist without race.

If what you are saying is that schools are still practicing both race- and SES-based affirmative action, but simply hiding the former with the latter, that’s wrong. They don’t need to hide anything. I have read Grutter, and it says that schools may still take race *explicitly* into account, provided it does not result in a de facto quota.

If you’re talking about a school like Boalt or UCLA, where racial preferences are illegal, then I agree no one knows what is going on. But, that is certainly not the case at “nearly every school in the country,” most of which are still able to explicitly take race into account (thanks to Grutter).

Posted by: My two cents at November 21, 2006 07:04 PM

Grutter allows race-based preferences so we can assume a fair number of admissions offices use them. But it’s also true that admissions offices use an assortment of preferences—not just race-based—to convert the applicant pool they’ve got into the student body they want.

Race-based preferences have gotten the most attention in recent years, but see e.g. Shulman & Bowen’s book “The Game of Life”, which examines how the preference for athletes at Ivy League schools even exceeds the preference for racial minorities. Or see e.g. me, who benefited from the preference many law schools give to “non-traditional” (= old) students. And so on.

Posted by: MB at November 21, 2006 08:50 PM

My two cents wrote: Most people use the term “socioeconomic status” to refer to wealth, income, education, and relative social position (thus the “socio”). It is usually *not* used to refer to race, although race may correlate with socioeconomic status.

The American Anthropological Association’s statement on race states: “physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.”

Socioeconomic factors include race.

My two cents wrote: If what you are saying is that schools are still practicing both race- and SES-based affirmative action, but simply hiding the former with the latter, that’s wrong. They don’t need to hide anything. I have read Grutter, and it says that schools may still take race *explicitly* into account, provided it does not result in a de facto quota.

You’re stating the obvious. See above. SES includes race, it is explicitly taken account. You’ve misunderstood the argument.

Posted by: at November 21, 2006 11:15 PM

Anonymous at 11:15 PM,

Terms used in a certain context mean what people commonly accept them to mean in that context. In the context of affirmative action, people distinguish SES-based affirmative action from race-based affirmative action. The reason they distinguish them is because, as MB pointed out, race-based preferences are presumptively unconstitutional whereas SES-based preferences are not. People talk about SES-based preferences, or class-based preferences as they are sometimes called, as an alternative to race-based preferences. That wouldn’t make a lot of sense if race was a factor in SES-based preferences.

Race may be a social construct, and all things being equal it’s certainly not unreasonable to view “race” as a “socioeconomic” factor. But, when talking about affirmative action doing so is likely to confuse most people familiar with the affirmative action debate.

That being said, I wasn’t entirely clear as to what your argument was to begin with. I was just pointing out what I thought were incorrect assumptions on your part.

Posted by: My two cents at November 22, 2006 08:48 AM


Racial gaps in bar pass rates.

Some version of this image has been running on the UCLA home page since January 2006. It touts an 89% bar passage rate, a data point included on the UCLA website in the section for prospective students.

This figure comes from the California Bar Association’s statistical report for the July 2005 bar exam (see page 4). 235 out of 265 passed = 89%.

However, this figure only includes first-time takers. UCLA’s pass rate for repeaters is a less impressive 3 out of 20 = 15%. Compare this to the repeater pass rate for Stanford (40%), Berkeley (46%), Loyola (27%), Southwestern (20%), or Pepperdine (17%). Fortunately we’re tied with USC (15%) and still ahead of Whittier (11%). Woohoo!

If you go to page 2 of the report, you can see bar passage rates broken out by race. The top row shows results for first-time takers who graduated from California ABA-accredited law schools, including UCLA. The white pass rate is 75%. The black pass rate is 46.1%, and Hispanic is 57.5%.

Of course, since the California bar doesn’t break out rates by school, we can’t tell what the gap is at UCLA in particular. What would you guess? The black / white gap across all ABA schools is nearly 30 points. Is the gap at UCLA smaller or larger?

The results for the July 2006 bar exam came out last Friday. The statistical analysis for that exam isn’t posted yet. As an unscientific experiment, I went through last year’s facebook and noted the students in the class of 2006 who, in my estimation, were likely African-American. There were 18. Then I ran these names through the bar results search engine. 8 names came up. 10 did not.

If we assume that all the graduates took the bar, that’s 8 out of 18 = 44% pass rate. Granted, that’s an aggressive assumption, since a couple may be in joint degree programs, or taking another bar out of state, etc. I have no easy way of verifying this.

But let’s assume 6 did not take the California bar, for whatever reason. That still leaves a bar passage rate of 8 out of 12 = 67%. If we assume that the bar passage rate for white students at UCLA is still 89% (it’s likely somewhat higher, since the 89% figure includes all students, not just white), that would mean a black / white bar passage gap in the range of 22 to 45 percentage points. (This is an estimate, and I welcome any information that would allow me to improve the estimate.)

If Prop 209 were repealed tomorrow, it would only address half of the problem: achieving diversity in the admissions process. It would do nothing to address the other half of the problem: large gaps in bar passage rates.

A UCLA law student’s chance of becoming a lawyer varies widely depending on the student’s race. To deliberately include an African-American student in a photo touting a 89% bar pass rate strikes me as crass, a victory of marketing over substance. The day every UCLA grad has an 89% chance of passing the bar is the day they should put it on the home page.

RELATED: A story in Monday’s NY Times about the racial gap in standardized test scores in grade school.

19 Nov 06

Comments

Testimony.

did you see that in the courtyard?

Posted by: eas at November 19, 2006 11:53 PM

Couldn’t this gap be explained by the admissions staff engaging in back-door affirmative action. I imagine it is often easy to discern a students race through their essay. I have a much easier time believing this than there is some kind of inherent unfairness in the education.

Posted by: at November 20, 2006 05:01 PM

You are making quite a jump by assuming that the white bar passage rate is 89% at UCLAW, and that coming up with a much lower numbers (67% or 44%) based on hypotheticals. After all, you said, “since a couple may be in joint degree programs, or taking another bar out of state, etc. I have no easy way of verifying this.” You have no way of verifying anything since the racial breakdowns are not given by school. You’re probably going to mention that the rates you’re extrapolating from are statewide, but you do not know for sure whether UCLAW follows this. Fun with numbers, eh?

Posted by: at November 20, 2006 10:11 PM

I’m not sure I see your point. Are you saying that the pass rate gap at UCLA is much smaller than my estimate? I would be DELIGHTED to find out that’s true. Per above, “I welcome any information that would allow me to improve the estimate.”

I make this analysis not to editorialize about the bar performance of one group or another, but rather the lack of attention UCLA (and law schools in general) give to the issue of equity in bar passage.

I don’t want to stop affirmative action. I like affirmative action. (Geez, I even like quotas.) But right now, law schools only have incentives to create diversity at enrollment. They are not held accountable for bar results.

Posted by: MB at November 20, 2006 11:35 PM

re Testimony in the courtyard.

Yes, eas, I did see that and as a hispanic law student at ucla I find it to be ridiculous. The one comment about the student who overheard other students commenting on how Raza is so sensitive is classic. Raza sensitive?! nahh, not Raza. Besides that I don’t understand why another student was so shocked that a professor told him or her that maybe law school isn’t for that student. Is it that surprising that maybe law school isn’t for everyone? Shit, a look at the bar passage rate by race tells me that maybe law school isn’t for me. So what should I do? Write on the walls? Protest the law school for following the law? I have a better idea! Maybe I should just sit my butt down and study. What a concept, who would have thought to increase the bar passage rate for minorities by studying harder, as a minority student.

Posted by: at November 21, 2006 12:41 AM

Thank you for that comment.

Posted by: at November 21, 2006 03:06 PM

MB,

I believe the actual CA bar passage rate among blacks who graduated from UCLA Law last year is likely about 73%.

I came up with this figure based on an e-mail list to which I have access. According to this list there were 17 black students who graduated last year. However, based on my own personal knowledge I was able remove three students who took the bar in another state and three others who did not sit for the exam.

Of the 11 remaining students, 8 of them passed, making the passage rate 72.7%.

Hope this helps,

Endangered

Posted by: Endangered at November 26, 2006 07:54 PM

Hello! ;)

wow... what brainsick news!

what do U think about it?

Posted by: shoes-news at February 6, 2007 05:29 PM


Racial gaps pt. 2.

Progress in the quest for better information: a UCLA professor advises me that about 85% of UCLA grads overall take the California bar exam. So out of 18 African-American students, we’d expect 15 to sit for the Calif bar.

However, he also pointed out that at least a few students listed in the class of 2006 may still have one semester to go (because they took time off) and are not eligible to take the bar until February. So that may cut into the 18.

So today, I’ll extend my unscientific sampling technique to white students listed in the class of 2006. While this number won’t mean much in absolute terms, it will have been derived the same way as the African-American pass rate, making it more of an apples-to-apples comparison.

I started at the beginning of the facebook listings and took the first 30 students who were likely to be white. Since there’s no correlation between the alphabet and academic performance, the first 30 would be as random as any 30. As before, I ran the names through the bar passage search engine.

23 out of 30 of the white students came up on the pass list = 76% pass rate. This number was derived the same way as the 44% number in the African-American sample: by taking the names on the pass list and dividing it by total names in the sample.

If we assume the overall UCLA pass rate is still around 89%, we can make a couple further inferences. Since 23 of the white students passed, probably 26 students in the sample sat for the exam, because 23 out of 26 = 88% pass rate. That would leave 4 who didn’t take the exam for whatever reason. 4 out of 30 = 13%, which corresponds pretty well to the professor’s estimate of how many UCLA grads take the Calif bar (85% do, which means 15% don’t).

So going back to the African-American sample, let’s use the same baseline and assume 85% took the bar, and 15% didn’t. That means of the 18 students, 15 took the bar and 3 didn’t. 8 out of 15 = 53% pass rate. (That’s a more reliable baseline estimate than the previous 44%.)

Let’s also have a more conservative hypothesis where, for whatever reason, only 70% of the African-American students took the bar. That would mean 12 out of 18 took it and 6 didn’t. 8 passed out of 12 = 67% pass rate.

So, after this extra facebook experimenting, we can narrow the predicted bar pass range for African-American students to 53-67%. Compared to the white pass rate of 89%, there’s still a gap of 22-36 percentage points. So it looks like UCLA tracks the statewide racial gap of 30 points pretty closely.

21 Nov 06

Comments

“If we assume the overall UCLA pass rate is still around 89%, we can make a couple further inferences. Since 23 of the white students passed, probably 26 students in the sample sat for the exam, because 23 out of 26 = 88% pass rate. That would leave 4 who didn’t take the exam for whatever reason. 4 out of 30 = 13%, which corresponds pretty well to the professor’s estimate of how many UCLA grads take the Calif bar (85% do, which means 15% don’t).”

You’re still making assumptions that the overall school averages for students of all ethnicities not taking the bar matches the percentage of whites. How convenient that the 26 students taking the bar number results in a 4 students not taking the bar, which even more conveniently matches tracks close to the 15% figure of all students? Nice job... Just because a UCLA advises you that 15% of UCLA grads do not take the CA bar does not make the true. Nor does that take into account the possibility that the racial breakdown of non-CA bar test takers that may drastically, thus skewing the pass rates that you’ve computed.

Posted by: at November 21, 2006 11:29 PM

That’s incorrect. I’m assuming that the percentage of African-American students at UCLA not taking the CA bar is somewhere between 15% (the same as the overall student body) and 30% (double that rate, to account for unobservable differences in bar taking between groups).

Look at it another way. Suppose that there is no gap in bar passage rates. Since there were 8 African-Americans who passed, that means only 9 could’ve taken the bar (8 out of 9 = 89% pass rate). So the other 9 (or 50% of the total) didn’t take the Calif bar. Possible, but not probable.

This analysis is predicated on best available information. Again, I would be delighted to find out there is no bar passage gap at UCLA. Anyone who has better information than me is welcome to post it and I will adjust the numbers accordingly.

Posted by: MB at November 22, 2006 08:41 AM


Racial gaps pt. 3.

A commenter with access to apparently better information than I have passes this along:

I believe the actual CA bar passage rate among blacks who graduated from UCLA Law last year is likely about 73%.

I came up with this figure based on an e-mail list to which I have access. According to this list there were 17 black students who graduated last year. However, based on my own personal knowledge I was able remove three students who took the bar in another state and three others who did not sit for the exam.

Of the 11 remaining students, 8 of them passed, making the passage rate 72.7%.

I appreciate the clarification. If true, that puts the UCLA black / white bar passage gap at about 17 points. Better than 22 to 36 points. But not as good as zero. African-American students pay for a UCLA education but only get Loyola-level pass rates.

26 Nov 06

Comments

I haven’t take statistics, but isn’t it reaching a bit to draw conclusions based on a 17 point gap in such a small sample.

Posted by: at November 26, 2006 09:33 PM

That’s true when you’re using a sample to extrapolate conclusions about a larger population. But this isn’t a sample. There were only 17 students of interest.

If you’re suggesting the gap might vary quite a bit year to year because UCLA’s minority enrollment is relatively small, I’m sure that’s true. Determining that there was a 17 point gap this year doesn’t tell us what happened last year, or what will happen next year. It would be nice to see a multi-year trend, but that data isn’t available.

I’m also curious about the “three others who did not sit for the exam”. Statistically, minority students are more likely to never take a bar exam after graduation. (If you’re interested, I can post specific figures.) That doesn’t affect bar passage rates, but it does affect minority representation in the legal profession, since a student who never takes a bar exam obviously will never practice as a lawyer. No one has explained why this happens.

These three students may intend to take a bar exam later, but it’s worth noticing.

Posted by: MB at November 26, 2006 09:49 PM


Racial gaps pt. 4.

Answers to a few questions I’ve gotten regarding this ‘investigative’ series.

Why do you care about this? Not to get too soap-boxy, but I think anyone who cares about equalizing access to legal education and the diversity of the legal profession should care about this issue.

Why is it significant that one racial group has a lower bar passage rate? Won’t any group you pick have a bar passage rate that’s either above or below the average? Sure, law review editors as a group might have a higher pass rate. People who watch professional wrestling 5 hrs a day might have a lower pass rate.

The difference is that neither of these groups historically receives admissions preferences. While admissions preferences have benefits, they also have costs. To date, schools–law schools especially–have not been particularly curious about understanding these costs and making adjustments.

Much has changed in 30 years, but admissions preferences basically still work the same way. If students receiving preferences aren’t passing the bar as often, isn’t that a problem worth fixing? I share Bill Clinton’s view: mend it, don’t end it.

Are you saying that there is some conspiracy at UCLA to harm minority students? No, not at all. Fundamentally this isn’t a race issue. It’s an issue about people who received admissions preferences (for any reason) vs. people who didn’t. A law school like UCLA is not intentionally stacking the deck against any group of students.

But I also think they shouldn’t be promoting a bar passage rate that doesn’t apply equally to everyone. Aside from the ethical issues, I’m quite convinced that some law schools are breaking consumer protection laws by inadequately informing students. Maybe not UCLA, because preferences are (in theory) already illegal, but somewhere like USC (who definitely uses preferences) or Southwestern (who flunks out 1/3 of their law class each year, which disproportionately hurts minority enrollment)

Why do you only care about black vs. white comparisons? It’s a proxy for prefs vs. no prefs, but not a perfect one. There are black students who didn’t receive admissions preferences; there are white students who did. Also, a lot of the existing data is broken out by race, not by other attributes, so it’s a matter of data availability. If I could make other comparisons reliably, I would.

A student getting an admissions preference knows what their numbers are like going in. Aren’t they aware they’re at greater risk of failing the bar? Perhaps they should know, but I can assure you they don’t. This semester, I’ve been working on a project interviewing minority students who failed the bar at least once. (I plan to post a summary of that project in January.)

For now, I can tell you that none of the people I’ve talked to really considered the meaning of the bar passage rates until it was time to take the bar. Maybe they’d heard things here & there but they never really connected it to themselves. But after they failed, they sure knew.

27 Nov 06

Comments

shouldn’t you be studying?

Posted by: eas at December 3, 2006 06:33 PM


Racial gaps pt. 4.

Answers to a few questions I’ve gotten regarding this ‘investigative’ series.

Why do you care about this? Not to get too soap-boxy, but I think anyone who cares about equalizing access to legal education and the diversity of the legal profession should care about this issue.

Why is it significant that one racial group has a lower bar passage rate? Won’t any group you pick have a bar passage rate that’s either above or below the average? Sure, law review editors as a group might have a higher pass rate. People who watch professional wrestling 5 hrs a day might have a lower pass rate.

The difference is that neither of these groups historically receives admissions preferences. While admissions preferences have benefits, they also have costs. To date, schools–law schools especially–have not been particularly curious about understanding these costs and making adjustments.

Much has changed in 30 years, but admissions preferences basically still work the same way. If students receiving preferences aren’t passing the bar as often, isn’t that a problem worth fixing? I share Bill Clinton’s view: mend it, don’t end it.

Are you saying that there is some conspiracy at UCLA to harm minority students? No, not at all. Fundamentally this isn’t a race issue. It’s an issue about people who received admissions preferences (for any reason) vs. people who didn’t. A law school like UCLA is not intentionally stacking the deck against any group of students.

But I also think they shouldn’t be promoting a bar passage rate that doesn’t apply equally to everyone. Aside from the ethical issues, I’m quite convinced that some law schools are breaking consumer protection laws by inadequately informing students. Maybe not UCLA, because preferences are (in theory) already illegal, but somewhere like USC (who definitely uses preferences) or Southwestern (who flunks out 1/3 of their law class each year, which disproportionately hurts minority enrollment)

Why do you only care about black vs. white comparisons? It’s a proxy for prefs vs. no prefs, but not a perfect one. There are black students who didn’t receive admissions preferences; there are white students who did. Also, a lot of the existing data is broken out by race, not by other attributes, so it’s a matter of data availability.

27 Nov 06

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