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Grutter is the Michigan affirmative action case about law school admissions.  It actually specifically says that a point-based system (as Michigan employed in undergarduate admissions) is unconstitutional.  The majority endorsed a holistic review of applications with attention to diversity (for institutions that found this to be a reasonable goal). 

I don't know exactly what you mean about AA "being practiced non-meritocratically," as I think that merit is a very weighted term.  (I am not saying this to be snide or critical; I actually don't know exactly what you are getting at.)  My position is merely that it's good for everyone to have diverse law schools and a diverse profession.  Schools have many more qualified applicants than they need to fill the class, and they have to make admissions decisions on bases beyond the minimal qualifications of applicants.  Schools have generally chosen to rely largely on a ranking of LSAT and GPA with very little attention to the context of these scores or to the very plausible idea that there is little difference between a 169 scorer and a 175 scorer.  I would set up different criteria, as some schools have done, with more attention to race, SES, career goals, educational background, etc.

Heh, don't i look foolish not knowing "grutter" now?  I just know the cases as the Michigan cases, not by the other names.  But i apologize for my ignorance (i, naively, assumed you were citing some sociologist or psychologist, and didn't even bother googling it).

And certainly "merit" is a charged and somewhat-ambiguous term.  However, rather than get into a debate on terms, I think we can agree on a rough notion of legal merit as the apptitude someone has for being a lawyer (e.g., ability to analyze complex legal ideas, write well in a legal manner, speak well on legal topics, etc.).  Since we would agree (i assume) that race has little to do with one's intelligence directly (perhaps because a person is a certain race they are more likely to get certain educational advantages, but assuming all other things are equal), then the idea of merit would not include any idea of race.

Obviously I was joking somewhat, and certainly there are many who agree with you that questions of justification should notbe divorced from questions of practice.

But we need to agree, I think, on the terms of the argument, and we need to keep things tidy. 

So let me ask you this:  Assume for a second that, if AA is justified, there is some meritocratic implementation of it that is at least better than no AA.  Is AA justified on the grounds that Red. provides?

I think i would agree, but its hard for me to say for sure without knowing the specific manner of meritocratic implementation.  I'm generally very skeptical of specific practices being justified by theories of abstract right (fairness, merit, etc.).  But, as I said in an earlier post, I think Red's arguments do justify AA in theory, just not in practice.  And, I do think that AA is justified in practice, just not on meritocratic grounds.


As a philosophy lover not at all invested in this sort of discussion, let me provide this entirely unsatisfactory answer to your question.

This thread is concerned with the question of justification: Why is AA justified?

Your posts seem to be concerned with an entirely different question: how can meritocratic AA be implemented?  This is an interesting and I think difficult question, even for the strongest supporters of AA.  But it's not the question at hand.

If you'll accept Red.'s arguments that AA is justified, then we can move the practical questions of implementation to another thread (perhaps with some smart policy people).  I, for one, prefer to keep my head in the clouds.

I'm actually a philosophy student\lover as well (i guess that makes me a lover of a lover of wisdom).  However, i don't believe philosophy is disconnected from practice (i think that's the failing of most philosophers--i'm a pragmatist).  If a meritocratic AA is impossible to implement, then i think that AA cannot be justified on grounds of merit.  I don't believe justification precedes plausibility.

This is outside the scope of this conversation, but it is important to a conversation about AA (in my opinion). . .

Law School is not an end.  It is a means to the end of becoming a lawyer.  By looking at the admissions process, law school starts to look like a destination instead of what it really is: a trade school to create lawyers.

Given that those URMs who successfully graduate and pass the bar make great lawyers that are highly likely to give back to their communities and given that some minority members of the community may not trust a white lawyer (due to stereotypes and prejudice that exists on both sides) and that these members of the community will only be adequately served by minority lawyers, shouldn't we do whatever we can to create those minority lawyers?  I see it as irrelvant if those lawyers were not the top students at their law school for whatever reason (stereotype thread, test anxiety, poor early education offered by poor public schools, lack of role models in the family to encourage "book learning" as valuable, etc. etc. etc.)  If in the end the minorities who pass school and the bar make great lawyers who can serve in ways that white lawyers cannot, then we need to do whatever is needed to ensure that minority applicants make it into law school.

I agree with you mostly Aerynn, however, i have two qualms, one small, one big. 

First, I do not think that law school is a trade school: if it was a trade school, it would be focused mainly on passing the bar or doing concrete lawyer things, like legal writing and research.  Instead, i view it as a strand within a liberal arts education, but this point is mostly irrelevant to AA so I'll leave it aside.

Second, your great point about the need for lawyers of different races leaves open the question about the necessity of AA.  Applicants from races who score more poorly than they should on LSATs will generally still get into law schools, but at ones ranked lower than they otherwise would have.  If the only important thing is to make sure that URMs get into law school, that will happen in the current system.  The current system, though, would preclude minority lawyers in the top schools without AA.  So you would need to add to your arguement for minority lawyers to explain why there should be an equal distribution in all law schools, even if the URMs in top schools were not "the top students."  I agree that this is important, but it does not follow from your argument alone, I don't think.

C00per6, you might want to actually read the arguments that have already been made. The theory behind stereotype threat is that, when a stereotyping environment exists in the administration of a standardized test, the results of that test will not be accurate for the minorities who take it, even if the test is accurate as a whole. Thus, your arguments don't really apply. This is condensed, so if you don't follow, go back and read the original couple pages of this thread.

Yes yes yes, suggest that I haven't read the posts, good way to avoid responding to my questions.  My arguments really have little to do with "stereotype threat" itself, so I don't see why my "arguments don't really apply."  My point, instead, is, how do you concretely implement AA in admissions decisions in a fair and meritocratic manner if we assume that "stereotype threat" exists and is the explanation for a gap in LSAT scores between members of different races.  People have proposed extensive "contextualization" and "holistic" examination, neither of which seem solutions to me in that i think context and holistic approaches are important for all applicants regardless of race.  What specifically will be the difference when adcoms review the files of applicants subject to the "stereotype threat" and those not? 

C00per6, you're completely off-point.  This whole thread had demonstrated that LSAT scores only make sense in context and that the process of AA is a contextualization process by which these scores can be better understood.  Arguments that AA is a sledgehammer not suited to discern the difference between those who suffered greatly from issues such as stereotype threat and those who didn't have these same challenges also miss the point.  When people say that a holisitic approach is needed, they are addressing this point, arguing that empowering adcoms to consider all available relevant factors (SES, race, other challenging circumstances) that a committee can better understand the merit of an application.  Without AA, it's not possible to contextualize in this manner at all and the LSAT becomes a meaningless metric.  It's like arguing that adcoms can't look at the difficulty of your major, the size of your courseload, or the quality of your ugrad institution when comparing your GPA to another student's.  This info adds the context to make your GPA meaningful when compared.  All that this thread has needed to show was that the LSAT operates in a similar way and I think red's done a commendable job attempting to show this.

I don't understand what you mean when you say that: "Without AA, it's not possible to contextualize in this manner at all and the LSAT becomes a meaningless metric."  First of all, why is contextualization impossible without AA?  Do not admissions officers look closely at candidates' applications regardless of race and take into account challenging circumstances? 

Second of all, without AA, LSATs become a meaningless metric?  Why is that?  What is meaningless about them?  Obviously when comparing GPAs across candidates you have to take into account the school, the major, etc.  The ENTIRE point of the LSAT is that you should not need to contextualize it because it should be a standardized test.  However, the argument about "stereotype threat" undermines its supposed objectivity.  So either the solution is: (1) ignore LSAT scores completely for some groups or for everyone, or (2) provide a benefit for students subject to "stereotype threat," whether by boosting scores or by weighting non-LSAT factors more heavily.  I believe the first option is a poor choice, so my question is: how do we do take the second option and employ it in a fair and meritocratic way?  I don't think we can.  Instead, I think AA operates, in practice, on unfair and unmeritocratic reasons because of societal benefits unrelated to fairness or merit (e.g., making society less racially stratified, increasing diversity, etc.).  I disagree with Red and others who say that AA can be defended purely on the basis of fairness or merit.

No one has argued that law schools perfectly accomplish this currently, but this is what they are attempting to do. Obviously, this will always be an imperfect science, and you can never be sure of which applicants will truly make up the "best" class. I think the whole argument begins with the assumption, however, that admissions as a whole is a very imperfect science, and it is nearly impossible to make accurate judgments about any applicant. Red's point has simply been that you make this imperfect science much better if you account for stereotype threat when dealing with minority applications.

I'm not certain that's entirely been her argument, by my point is that this line is not convincing for people who, as I said earlier, buy into the cult of individuality.

I think aerynn's right - I personally don't care exactly how you describe the root(s) of the bias or exactly what system you choose to deal with it, but I think something should be done.  I'm mushy that way.

If you buy into the "cult of individuality," you should be far more willing to look at individual applications holistically, rather than blindly assume that a student with a 175 is better than one with a 168.

And the problem with being "mushy" is that it doesn't lead us anywhere specific. Meaningless feel-good-ism can result in all sorts of harmful policies. I think we should take these problems seriously and rigorously examine what the best responses are.

I'm all for "holistic" examination of applicants, but i don't really understand what that means in any concrete fashion--it seems like a nice big fuzzy academic word that boils down to meaning: "examine an applicant's file and ignore the LSAT."  Personally, I would hope that every candidate's file is examined in detail beyond just the GPA\LSAT, and i think most law schools do look closely.  I fully understand that admissions is an inexact science, but using fuzzy words in place of largely objective criteria seems to make it less exact, rather than more.

You say admissions committees should "dig deeper" into these applications, an idea I largely reject since i think ALL candidates' applications should be thoroughly examined.  You also suggest that we give "more weight" to "background, life experiences, essays" for candidates subject to "stereotype threat."  Does that mean that even if a minority candidate has a good LSAT score we should ignore it and look only at his\her background, life experiences and essays?  Does the LSAT become something that if the student does well on it, then they get a bonus, but if they do not, we ignore it?  How is that fair to other students for whom the LSAT is make or break?

Your suggestions seem to propose different criteria of admission for different races (namely, look at the LSAT for some, not for others).  If we have different criteria of admission for different races, how do we compare candidates from different races?  Or can we not, in which case we have quotas for different races?  What happens if we have two candidates with mostly equal backgrounds (same type of college, same work experience, same socioeconomic status, same extracurriculars, etc.), and one candidate is subject to the "stereotype threat" and the other is not.  What if the candidate not subject to "stereotype threat" has an LSAT score 5 points better?  Or 10 points better?  How do we decide between them if there is only 1 admissions slot?  What if the "stereotype threat" candidate has a 5 point or 10 point better LSAT score.  Should we automatically accept him\her over the other student?  Just because of the LSAT score?  But you suggested we have to ignore the LSAT score for these candidates.  Can we really ignore LSAT scores when making decisions?  How else can candidates be compared (albeit roughly and inexactly) when we all have such different backgrounds?  The LSAT is the one constant for all law school applicants.
And even though I apparently "missed the point," you finished your statement by making the very error that I'm questioning: "Red's point has simply been that you make this imperfect science much better if you account for stereotype threat when dealing with minority applications."  Well, HOW do we account for the "stereoytpe threat when dealing with minority applications"?  Falling back on "holistic examination" is precisely the type of soft thinking I'm trying to work around.  I'm honestly interested in this question because AA is something i support, but I'm not sure how to make it as workable in practice as I would like.

Red (and other compelling AA defenders)---I've found your discussion enlightening, but I have one major question that nobody has addressed (though i skimmed a few of the posts, so please correct me if i overlooked it).  I personally am very torn about AA, though I do believe it is a useful social policy for the moment, so I am a supporter.  That said, however, there's a major gap regarding the implementation of AA that I'm not sure how to answer, so I would like to know what others think.

How does a general (or "societal" or "structual" problem as you all like to say) problem dictate particular actions?  In other words, what concrete changes should an AA policy enact in law school admissions decisions on particular candidates? 

Lets assume that all the arguments that have been provided in defense of AA are true (that there is a large LSAT (I'll ignore GPA) gap between members of different races, that the "stereotype threat" is prevalent and is the best conception we have for explaining this gap, that merit and fairness are the proper criteria for law school admissions, etc.).  Now if all of these are true, it seems to follow that, as Red suggested in her very first post, AA is a good policy because it offsets the psychologically (or societally) induced LSAT gap that obscures the equal talents of members of different races and it thereby increases the meritocracy of law schools (which we have assumed is good).  AA thus seems to be a good general solution to a general problem.

What, though, are the concrete effects of this policy?  On the decision of any particular candidate with an LSAT score lower than the average accepted by a schoool, how should the admissions committee determine that this candidate suffered from the "stereotype threat" as opposed simply to achieving a score indicative of their apptitude (and yes I know this assumes without argument that GPA\LSAT indicate apptitude, but there does not seem to be a better suggested method for evaluating apptitude so i will not argue this point here)?  If, as Red said, black students score on average 6 points lower because of the "stereotype threat," does that mean we should add 6 points to every black student's LSAT score and from there judge all candidates equally and blind to race? 

That might be the systematic solution, but it does not seem fair or meritocratic.  Certainly, some students are affected more than others by the "stereotype threat" and the 6 points is just an average.  How should we account for particular students who score well on other standardized tests (ACTs, SATs) but bomb the LSAT--do they get +6?  What about students with high GPAs (let's even say a 4.0) but bad LSATs, do they get +6?  Why would the "stereotype threat" affect these students in certain acadmic situations but not, seemingly, in other comparable ones?  Should we give the +6 to students only when they have low ACTs\SATs and low LSATs, or only when they have low GPAs, low SATs\ACTs\ and low LSATs?  And what about students who are affected by more than 6 points because of the "stereotype threat," but only get a 6 point boost?  What is fair and meritocratic?

It would certainly be fair and meritocratic to give a boost to students that corresponds with the damage done by the "stereotype threat" when it is apparent, but there does not seem to be any way to determine this in a rigorous manner.  Without such a determination, it seems unfair and unmeritocratic to boost everyone's scores equally  (indeed, such rationale seems to me to be the continuous problem with AA: people agree with it on a general level, but in any individual instance where AA might seem to have helped a particular student gain admission, that student will get attacked for not deserving it, because how can we know when lower numbers obscure the higher talent of a student and when lower numbers actually indicate lower talent?).  The idea of boosting scores equally for a particular race seems to lead, logically, to the idea of a quota system (because it assumes that all students are inherently equal and different races should be represented equally in proportion to the number of applicants, which should equal the proportion of the different races in society since all people are assumed equal).

Instead, it seems that, ideally, LSAT scores should be understood as flexible because of the possibility of the "stereotype threat," but this response undermines the use of LSATs (which i find problematic because it is the only common criterion of admissions for all students) and also neglects to mention how AA would be consistently implemented fairly and meritocratically. 

It seems to me that, in the end, with AA in admissions decisions, there is generally a +6 boost (or +x), since there does not seem to be any way to determine when the "stereotype threat" occurs or to what extent it affects individuals, and so students get equal boosts which are usually too large or too small (though, on average, it is equal, it is not in particular situations).  This result is highly unsatisfactory to me because although it does deservedly benefit some, it also undeservedly harms some.  Perhaps it is best (and trite) to say that AA has lots of problems but that it is the best solution available to this "systemic" problem, but that is not much of a defense of AA. 

This is the conclusion I reach, and my intuition is that, at the moment, the benefits of AA are greater than the harms, but this is not for logical or certain reasons (the benefits of AA are not deducible from principles of fairness or meritocracy as some think), and i do not think that the gap between benefits and harms is very great.

So I would like to hear why people think I am right or wrong, but, more importantly, what concrete suggestions anyone has for implementing AA policies in evaluations of particular candidates.

What about:

George Washington
Notre Dame
Boston University
Boston College
North Carolina

I am an URM from Atlanta. Do I have a chance at any of these schools? Do I have a GOOD chance at any? I know that UT and UNC are strict as hell about admitting nonresidents. Any advice would be extremely helpful.

I lived in New Orleans until forced to move by Hurricane Katrina, but I don't intend to mention Katrina anywhere on my application. That just seems so cheap to me. Am I doing the right thing by not seeking pitty/admission because of the hurricane, or am I passing up an opportunity?

I think you should research to see where people with comparable profiles are generally accepted rather than asking us 0Ls and 1Ls for our subjective opinions.  From my limited research there, it would seem like you would be under serious consideration at almost any school in the country, though you should check it out for yourself.

As for Katrina, I think you should neither purposely mention it nor purposely not mention it.  If in your personal statement or some of your essays it seems like a natural thing to discuss, then raise it.  Your sentiment of worrying about being "cheap" is understandable and worthwhile in that you do not want to benefit unfairly from the tragedy.  So I think the best course is don't play it up or say that it affected you in ways that it did not, because that would be unfairly benefiting from the tragedy, but that also does not mean you should not mention it.  Basically, tell your story without exaggeration as best you can, and if that includes Katrina, than do not worry about it looking cheap--honesty isn't cheap.

Studying for the LSAT / Re: LR Help!!!
« on: July 01, 2006, 08:16:06 AM »
I had the same problem for a while on LR.  Here's what I think is the main question: Do you get the LR wrong in clumps or are they spread out? 

Since you said you 90% of the time see immediately why you were wrong, it seems to me that these are questions you should get right so your problem is that you're either going too quickly and misreading questions\answers or you're mentally checking out for clumps of time.  Personally, I would mentally check out every little bit (it's hard to stay focused for 4 straight hours, and LR is the area where i would check out since I find LG easy (like you seem to) and RC necessarily requires concentration since you read so much, so it seems like its easy to tune out a little bit in LR).  Mentally spacing out doesn't necessarily mean you're daydreaming (obviously that would be bad), but more the problem is that you sort of get on autopilot and don't consciously pay attention to what you're reading and so you make logical\factual errors.

If you're mentally checking out, generally you'll get questions wrong in clumps (2 or 3 in a row or 3 out of 4, etc.).  If you're misreading\going too quickly your wrong answers will, generally, be more spaced out (sometimes on an individual test the opposite will be the case, but over all your tests, the general trends should hold).  When determining which it is, ignore the questions that it takes you a while to figure out, cause those are ones you should get wrong (or, at least, they're not indicitive of what your problem is), so ignore those 10% and figure out where you're getting the other 90% wrong.

Depending on which it is, there are different solutions: either purposely take more time to read each question carefully if you're going too fast, or mentally kick yourself to pay attention the entire time, especially when you feel like spacing out a bit or letting up a bit, if mental lapses are your problem. 

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