Friday, March 14, 2008

Law Review and Diversity

(Note: This post in particular will be condemned by Law Review for it exposes supposedly secret discussions. But because I like my freedom of information, I thought it would be particularly valuable to tell the true story of the diversity essay, something that I was against last year and continue to be against. Because common law views truth as a defense to defamation, the following is a factual recount of how Law Review diversity initiatives came into being. Only in the last paragraph of my post will I give my opinions and conjectures. Law Review leadership: you've got to do a better job to prevent the dissemination of your confidential discussions and memos to people like me.)

Early 2006: A new editorial board of Law Review takes over. One topic that is addressed is diversity on Law Review. A rudimentary outreach program takes place, where a select few minority students in the class of 2008 are "handpicked" and Law Review offers mentoring to those students. A small rift among minority students chosen and those not chosen develops as a result.

Spring break 2006: The writeon for the class of 2008 takes place. Out of 140 students who attempt the writeon, around 1/3 are racial minorities. No diversity statement is used, and thus the selection process is completely blind.

Late-spring 2006: Results of the writeon are announced. 41 students are selected. 39 students are white. Only 2 are minorities (both are East Asian). Law Review is dismayed at the composition, and decides to take steps to counter the impact on racial minorities, particularly on underrepresented students of color.

Summer/early fall: One of the tasks the editorial board does to create a diversity committee to examine ways to increase diversity on Law Review, with increased racial diversity being the main objective of the committee. Knowing framing the issue in terms of increasing racial diversity will be problematic, the issue is framed in terms of "minimizing the disparate impact on students of color."

Fall 2006: The diversity committee starts to meet. Racial diversity continues to be a concern. One member of the committee circulates a memo to members of the Critical Race Studies faculty. The committee starts talking about ways to increase diversity. Among the suggestions are outreach to minority students via the Critical Race Studies program and the ethnic student organizations, providing mentors, and holding special workshops for all minority students to focus on how to do the writeon, and all of the aforementioned proposals eventually gets adopted.

Early 2007: A new editorial board arrives. The memo-writing member of the diversity committee is selected as the new Chief Comments Editor, the head of the department in charge of the writeon. Another committee member is selected as one of the comments editor. The committee continues to meet. The issue becomes framed as of the need of Law Review to edit not just traditional legal scholarship, but also non-traditional interdisciplinary and theoretical scholarship, and hence of the need for Law Review to have members proficient in nondoctrinal theory. The committee also looks at how other Law Reviews at elite schools have responded to a quest to increase diversity. Outreach begins in full force, including the writeon workshop/tutoring sessions for minority students.

February-2007: a draft committee proposal is submitted to the Law Review chiefs. They meet and provide feedback. A final proposal is hammered out. The main focus of the calls for the introduction of a personal statement to sort out applications that are borderline as well as balancing the Law Review packet sources so that they support both doctrinal and nondoctrinal arguments. The proposal is presented during an all-Law Review meeting, and during this very contentious general meeting, there was a heated debate since it is the first time the general members are presented with the planned changes to the writeon process. One of the main topics of discussion is whether the whole intellectual diversity framework is just a guise for race. Finally, by a vote of 24 to 11, the new personal statement is approved to the Law Review writeon. Law Review is careful to stress throughout the meeting of the need for secrecy, asking that the proposal not to be disseminated and all paper copies to be shredded (Whoops!).

Spring break 2007: The writeon occurs for the class of 2009.

April 2007: The members of the class of 2009 who made Law Review are announced. The racial composition of the 36 new staff (before grade-on and transfer writeon) is as follows: 28 whites, 3 East Asians, 3 South Asians, 1 African American, and 1 Latino. [N.B.: the law school admissions office considers South Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans to be underrepresented minorities.] 25% of the new staff are also members of OUTlaw.

Early 2008: A new editorial board is elected. For the first time in its history, the editor in chief and all of the chief editors, the top 4 positions on Law Review, are all occupied by students of color. The diversity committee continues to exist.


Note that I have not stated any conclusions, but have merely stated facts, all supported by evidence. Any conclusions and inferences are up to you to make. But lets hope that the increased racial diversity on Law Review, despite the somewhat damning "legislative history," was due to its increased outreach of minority students. Or that the low minority composition of the Law Review class of 2008 was a mere statistical anomaly. Because I would hate to think that the Law Review of a state entity used race as a selection criteria, a direct violation of Proposition 209. As much as I support affirmative action for admissions purposes, I believe that the response should not be through unilateral actions to defy it, but rather to challenge it through the courts or to present additional voter propositions to repeal it.


Blogger Western Justice said...

this is why law school is an f-n' joke. why waste your time there anyhow?

5:54 PM  
Blogger aliya seen said...

This is a beautiful beginning. Thank you for your eloquent thoughts. I applaud you and look forward to future blog posts. We are introducing a site for all law students. Take a look if you're interested diversity statement law school.

8:19 PM  

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