Boalt Hall, the campus's law school, began fall '97 classes Aug. 18 in the national news spotlight. The first-year class is the first to be admitted under SP-1, the UC Regents' action barring the use of affirmative actions in admissions.
Eric Brooks, a 1992 graduate of Indiana University, is the only African-American student in the new class. "I believe that by attending Boalt this fall, I have been given a unique opportunity to work to make needed changes and improvements for future students of color at Berkeley," he said in a prepared statement.
Questions and Answers About Fall '97 Admissions At the School of Law
Q: How has the regents' ban on the use of affirmative action in admissions affected Boalt Hall's 1997 admissions process?
A: Boalt Hall implemented the ban by removing all consideration of race and ethnicity from its admissions policy and procedures. In addition, the law school has told Law Services, the non-profit corporation that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), to no longer include race and ethnicity in the reports it sends to Boalt Hall. (The reports are included in individual applicants' admissions files.)
Today, Boalt Hall seeks through permissible means to admit a student body with diverse experiences, backgrounds and ideas. Compared to prior years, a larger proportion of the applicant files now are sent to faculty-student reading teams where they are given more detailed evaluations rather than accepted or rejected administratively. Somewhat less weight now is given to numerical indicators, such as an applicant's grade point average and LSAT score. Somewhat more weight is given to the applicant's personal statement and letters of recommendation and to non-numerical indicators such as graduate student training, work experience, significant achievement in non-academic activities or public service, and to disadvantages the applicant has experienced.
Q: There was a significant drop in the number of underrepresented minority students-African-Americans, Latinos/Chicanos and Native Americans-who applied, were admitted and decided to attend Boalt Hall this fall. What effect has the affirmative action ban had on this decline?
A: Admissions data strongly imply that the drop in underrepresented minorities admitted to Boalt Hall indeed was caused by the affirmative action ban, as can be seen by comparing the 1997 admissions data with that from 1996 when affirmative action was in place. (See table.) The reduced percentage of offers of admission to underrepresented minority applicants, as well as the dramatically reduced number of enrolled minority students, is attributable in substantial part to the ban.
For example, last fall 20 of the 74 African-Americans admitted to Boalt Hall decided to attend. But none of the 15 African-Americans admitted this year will be enrolling. One African-American will be in the entering class of 270 students, having deferred enrollment from the previous year.
Of the 38 Latinos/Chicanos admitted to Boalt Hall for fall 1997, seven are scheduled to attend. Last year, 28 Latinos/Chicanos were in the entering class of 263 students. Two Native Americans were offered admission for fall 1997, but both students decided to enroll elsewhere. Last year, there were four Native Americans in the first-year class.
Q: Why have so few underrepre-sented minority students accepted places in the entering class?
A: While some admitted minority students expressed concerns about coming to Boalt Hall in light of the change in policy, others cited different reasons for accepting competing offers. Their reasons included personal considerations-to be near family or to attend the same school as a spouse. However, a more basic reason is that Boalt Hall has long been unable to provide scholarship support at a level comparable to other leading law schools; this year was no exception. For example, of the 15 African-Americans who turned down offers to attend Boalt Hall, 10 will attend prestigious private schools that traditionally offer students generous financial help.
Q: How difficult is it to gain admission to Boalt Hall?
A: Admission to Boalt Hall is the most competitive of any public law school in the country. More than 4,000 students apply for the 270 places in the entering class. In 1996, the median GPA for entering students was 3.74. The median LSAT score for entering students was in the 97th percentile.
Q: Has the new policy's ban on preferences had an effect on the number of women admitted to the law school for fall 1997?
A: There was no impact on the admission of women because Boalt Hall has never had an affirmative action program for women. This year women comprise 52 percent of the entering class. For more than a decade, between 45 and 50 percent of first-year students have been women.
Q: There are rumors that the law school administration delayed giving the names of underrepresented minority admits to Boalt Hall's minority student organizations for purposes of recruiting and that, as a result, recruitment calls were made too late to be effective. Is this true?
A: This year, the law school was not able to disclose to minority student organizations, as soon as it wished, the names and the race and ethnicity of the minority students it admitted. While some applicants had given the school race and ethnicity information, administrators could not disclose this data, since the applicants had been told it was for statistical purposes only.
Boalt Hall then inquired whether it could lawfully disclose the race and ethnicity information that applicants had provided to Law Services, the group that administers the LSAT. Boalt Hall was told that such a disclosure would be allowed since that data had not been gathered for a limited purpose. Boalt Hall then obtained the data on admitted students who had given Law Services authorization to disclose it. The law school then promptly gave it to recruitment volunteers, but by that time, for example, all but three African- Americans admitted to Boalt Hall had chosen to attend law school elsewhere.
Q: Why does Boalt Hall adjust either up or down the grade point averages of applicants from certain schools?
A: The law school does this to avoid subjective assessments by individual members of the admissions committee when evaluating undergraduate achievement. Without such a system, one reviewer might, for example, give greater weight to an elite East Coast private school than to a distinguished public university, and another reviewer might give the schools equal weight. This practice is not unique to Boalt Hall and is used by some of Boalt's peer law schools.
Q: How does a racially diverse student body affect education at Boalt?
A: The legal education of all students is enriched in the presence of a critical mass of students with diverse experiences and backgrounds, including students from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. A racially and ethnically diverse student body ensures a robust exchange of ideas with the faculty and throughout the school-inside and outside the classroom, in Boalt Hall student organizations and through the school's nine student-edited law journals. Students training to become lawyers benefit from early exposure to the needs and backgrounds of people from many walks of life, especially people who are traditionally underrepresented or disadvantaged in society. In the absence of such a student body, legal education is diminished in this important dimension.
Q: What steps will the law school take to improve the recruitment of minorities in the future?
A: Boalt Hall is carefully reviewing its admissions processes to see whether improvements are possible. It also is thinking about educationally desirable curricular innovations that might make Boalt Hall more attractive to minority students. The school also encourages its alumni and friends to help with recruitment and to contribute funds to private foundations for minority student financial aid. In addition, the legal community-lawyers, bar associations and law firms-has expressed interest in creating internships for minority students. However, since it can no longer take race or ethnicity into account when making admissions decisions, the law school cannot in the short run hope to achieve the diversity that once was its hallmark.