Bias at Virginia Law schools?(COMMENTARY)
Byline: Roger Clegg, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Center for Equal Opportunity - a nonprofit, Sterling, Va.-based research and educational organization - is publishing today a 50-page study that documents evidence of racial and ethnic discrimination in the admissions policies of Virginia's three public law schools: the University of Virginia, William and Mary and George Mason University. This is the first analysis of this kind ever done for law-school admissions anywhere in the country.
The study is authored by Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai of Rockville, but all the data on which it relies were supplied by the three law schools themselves. The center obtained the data through freedom-of-information requests and turned it over to the Lerners, who did a sophisticated statistical analysis using multiple logistic regression equations. In layman's terms, they looked to see whether the data showed that skin color and ancestry influenced an applicant's chances of admission.
For two of the schools - Virginia and William and Mary - the evidence is overwhelming that race makes a huge difference. Indeed, the numbers for Virginia are the worst that the center has ever seen, having published studies looking at preferences for 47 undergraduate institutions across the country (including 10 in Virginia) and for six medical schools. The law-school and other studies are all available on the center's Web site, www.ceousa.org.
At Virginia, the odds favoring a black candidate over an equally qualified white candidate were an astonishing 731 to 1 in 1999 and 647 to 1 in 1998. To put it in other terms: In 1999, if you had an LSAT score of 160 and an undergraduate grade-point-average of 3.25 - these are the two measures that law schools typically weigh most heavily - you had a 95 percent chance of getting in if you were black, but only a 3 percent chance of getting in if you were white.
At William and Mary, there was also strong evidence of pronounced discrimination favoring black Americans. The odds ratio favoring blacks over whites there was 168 to 1 in 1999 and 351 to 1 in 1998. Thus, in 1999, if you had an LSAT of 155 and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0, your chances of getting in were 84 percent if you were black but only 3 percent if you were white. The black-white gap in GPA during the first-year of law school was greatest at William and Mary: six-tenths of a point on a 4-point scale.
Only George Mason University School of Law can plausibly claim to be treating black and white applicants on a nondiscriminatory basis. …