News - October 2006
Michigan Law's Perspective: The Supreme Court was right, Roger Clegg is wrong
Evan Caminker, Dean
The University of Michigan Law School
October 20, 2006
Three years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States found that the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions policy is both legal and fair. Now Roger Clegg, President of the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), disputes that finding and cites data claiming that the Law School is being unfair to whites and Asians in favor of blacks and Hispanics. It’s therefore important the public understand that Mr. Clegg is not only wrong, but has done a great injustice to one of America’s finest law schools.
In complying with Freedom of Information Act requests which is how Mr. Clegg’s organization got its data the Law School was prohibited from supplying information that could reveal the identity of an individual applicant or student. Necessarily, then, the data we supplied was partial and incomplete Mr. Clegg’s organization knew that yet they persisted in a flawed analysis that could never hope to be accurate. The methods they used, in fact, were sharply criticized in the same Supreme Court litigation that vindicated the Law School’s admissions policy.
More importantly, though, what Clegg and CEO fail to explain is that not a single top law school ever uses statistical information alone in deciding who’s admitted and who isn’t. An applicant’s GPA and LSAT score (Law School Admissions Test) are important criteria, but we always look at those numbers in context of the whole person an analysis that might include undergraduate school major and rigor; participation in extracurricular activities such as arts and athletics; work and volunteer experience; the strength of letters of recommendation and their source; the student’s life experiences including study abroad, overcoming significant challenges, making a contribution to society; and the diversity of perspectives he or she will bring to class and, ultimately, the profession.
The bottom line is that we carefully consider multiple factors in making a decision, way beyond grades and test scores. But that said, never do we admit a student unless he or she is qualified and can succeed in this rigorous, highly competitive environment. That’s precisely why after reviewing our admissions policy with a fine-tooth comb the Supreme Court in 2003 found in the Law School’s favor. And that’s also why charges that black and Hispanic students admitted to the Law School will be assumed to be not as qualified as white and Asian students are nonsensical: Every Michigan Law student knows that if someone is admitted, he or she can do the work regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic background, age, or any other factor.
Why do we continue to take into account not just grades and test scores but the whole person, both individual ability and meaningful difference? Because all those elements are vital to producing a student body greater than the sum of its parts, and graduating an outstanding group of lawyers capable of serving a diverse society’s needs.
We remain committed to our practice, too, because students tell us it makes for better class discussion and career preparation, because faculty say it stretches students’ perspectives and helps them become better lawyers, and because the 700-plus recruiters who every year come to us from the nation’s top law firms, corporations, public service organizations, and government agencies agree that Michigan Law students make superbly capable professionals.
Mr. Clegg and his associates don’t want or can’t begin to weigh all those non-statistical factors, so they instead make broad and sweeping conclusions from limited data that fails to recognize the complex and qualitative nature of admissions decisions. Indeed, how persuasive is their claim that the University of Michigan Law School racially discriminates against white and Asian students when only 15% of our student body is African American, Latino, and Native American, and 85% is from the very groups Mr. Clegg says we discriminate against?
Mr. Clegg and his associates only seem intent on turning back the clock and hamstringing our ability to produce outstanding lawyers who can represent the diverse population of this state and the nation. We hope the citizens of Michigan see through their efforts and will continue to remain justly proud of what this law school has brought, and intends to keep bringing, to Michigan.
Dean and Professor of Law
University of Michigan Law School
625 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
Scott's Degrees of Freedom garners yet more awards
October 17, 2006
Rebecca Scott’s Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba After Slavery (Harvard University Press, 2005) not only won the $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, sponsored by Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, but has recently earned two additional awards.
Degrees of Freedom was also given the Gulf South Historical Association’s annual book award. The Association is a consortium of schools including the Universities of South Alabama, West Florida, Southern Mississippi, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas Christian, Texas A&M, and Pensacola Junior College.
The book has further been awarded the prestigious John Hope Franklin Prize by the American Studies Association. The award is made for the best book of the year in the field of American Studies and is the Association’s highest honor.
Michael Barr addresses the high cost of being poor
October 17, 2006
In a panel discussion hosted by former U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, Michigan Law Professor Michael Barr said “We have to totally transform the financial services sector for low-income people. We have to change the structure of banks.”
Barr participated in the panel at the request of Edwards, who now heads a poverty center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. According to John Edwards, “The Congress as long as it’s in the condition it’s in today will not pass a raise in the minimum wage. Meanwhile, the American people think it’s a moral embarrassment to have Americans working for $5.15 an hour and still living in poverty.”
In addition to researching financial services for low- and moderate-income households, Michael S. Barr teaches Financial Institutions, International Finance, Jurisdiction and Choice of Law, and Transnational Law. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Section on Financial Institutions of the Association of American Law Schools. He holds a B.A. summa cum laude from Yale; an M.Phil in International Relations from Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar; and a J.D. from Yale. Barr clerked for Justice David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Pierre N. Leval of the Southern District of New York. He has also served as a special advisor to the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. State Department, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s special assistant, and deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for Community Development Policy. He is a member of the bars of New York and the District of Columbia.