On July 29th, the Supreme Court got rid of affirmative action in higher ed student admissions with a resounding… kinda? Everyone understands that affirmative action is pretty much over, but has the Court entirely done away with any possible attempt to balance admitting students with equity in mind? Not so much. What’s for sure is that there is some gap between the Court’s decision in Harvard/UNC and however America First Legal and company are interpreting it — and colleges are preparing to walk that line. From Law.com:
The Association of American Law Schools held an affirmative action conference July 10 to explore law school recruiting options following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 29 ruling condemning affirmative action in higher education.
Representatives from big schools were in attendance: UC Davis, University of Michigan, UCLA, and others. With the equity endeavors that they’ve deployed since the passing of Proposition 209, California schools are well versed when it comes to figuring out how to cultivate diversity without choosing applicants based on their race. One big part of that, especially in this climate, is doing damage control:
One concern is that many underrepresented students may not understand what the ruling means and not realize how welcome they are in law school, so admissions folks and others need to reach out to prospective students, or there may not be many underrepresented people applying to law school, Schwartz said.
“The Supreme Court made it harder. It didn’t make it impossible,” Lynch said. “So that means we all have to work harder and that is just one of the challenges in life.
The schools are not alone in their attempt to help applying students figure out how they can discuss the importance of diversity without running afoul of the Court’s new ruling. The Law School Admissions Council has done its part to ease the growing pains by releasing several race neutral questions that still give applying students an opportunity to distinguish themselves from their peers. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a couple of example questions:
Are or were you a first-generation college/university student?
Will you be a first-generation law student?
Since starting college, have you ever participated in a prelaw program designed for individuals underrepresented in the field of law (such as a pipeline program)?
When enrolled in college, were you a Pell Grant recipient in any semester?
Students can look at these questions to get a head start on their diversity statements. Republican AGs can look at this list to figure out the next designer case they want to use to keep minorities out of higher ed. Who are we kidding, that’s already in the works. Part of America First Legal’s preemptive threat to law schools was meant to scare them into not using proxies for race like socioeconomic status. Being a Pell grant recipient was argued to be a proxy for being Black back when Wisconsinites were still mad about Biden’s student loan relief plan — I’m not surprised that made it to LSAC’s list. Other proxies, like being first generation or having prior experience in a community college will likely be some of the next contested and litigated issues in the fight to
bring back segregation prevent universities from paying attention to race in admissions.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.