Minority Law Applications Down

Boalt Seeks to Maintain Diversity Despite Challenges

Administrators at the School of Law report a 3 percent decline this year in the percentage of the applicant pool who identified themselves as minorities.

The demographic information concerning the applicant pool was taken from data compiled by the Law School Admission Council, the non-profit corporation that administers the Law School Admission Test.

According to the data, this year there were 4,086 applications to Boalt Hall, which will have an entering class of 270 students. Corresponding data from this time last year indicated that Boalt had received 4,621 applications. This 11.6 percent drop is consistent with a national trend toward declining law school applications.

Applicants to Boalt Hall who identified themselves to the independent Law Services as minorities declined from 39.4 percent of the total pool in 1996 to 36.3 percent of the total pool in 1997. The decline occurred among African- Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, and Native Americans.

By contrast, Asian-American applicants increased by 0.3 percent of the applicant pool and white/Caucasian applicants increased by 3.1 percent of the applicant pool. Nationwide, the percentage of the applicant pool who identified themselves to Law Services as minorities did not decline markedly this year.

The decline in minority applicants to Boalt Hall is worrisome to those who are trying to maintain diversity within newly imposed constraints.

In past years, the law school sought to achieve a racially and ethnically diverse student body through affirmative action, and it succeeded in achieving a high degree of racial and ethnic diversity. Last year, 34 percent of the entering class at Boalt Hall was composed of people of color, due in substantial part to affirmative action.

The law school believes it will not be able to maintain that level of diversity now that race and ethnicity have been eliminated as factors in the admissions process. Boalt Hall Dean Herma Hill Kay, like many other university administrators, opposed the decision to end affirmative action programs.

The decline in minority applications, Kay stated, "will make it even more difficult to maintain a racially diverse student body. Even so, we are doing everything we can to maintain diversity within the alternatives open to us."

"We cannot take race or ethnicity into account in making admissions decisions," said Andrea Peterson, Boalt law professor and chair of the admissions committee. "However, we are permitted to take into account a wide variety of other factors.

"We are seeking a student body with a broad set of interests and backgrounds, and we invite applicants to discuss how they would contribute to the diversity of the entering class in those ways."

"We also ask applicants to describe any disadvantages that may have adversely affected their past academic performance, such as language barriers or a personal or family history of educational or socioeconomic disadvantage. If the applicant has overcome obstacles in the past, we take this into account in judging the applicant's potential to succeed in the study and practice of law."

Kay emphasized that Boalt Hall values the current racial diversity of its student body and has much to offer students of color.


Copyright 1997, The Regents of the University of California.
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