Last September, the University of Michigan Law School announced its Wolverine Scholars Program. The program allows the law school to admit University of Michigan college students who have a 3.8 GPA — so long as those students don’t take the LSAT.
We were critical of the program. We wrote:
Look Michigan, if you are going to try to rig something, at least have the decency to do it under the cover of darkness.
To a UM college student with a 3.8, the Wolverine Scholars Program looks like an interesting example of game theory. But to the rest of us, it looks a straight bribe. It’s like Michigan Law School is saying: “Please, please, please don’t take the LSAT. Because if you get a 167 we probably have to accept you anyway. And if you get a 175 you will better deal us for a lobster dinner.”
We weren’t alone in our criticism. Indiana University professor Bill Henderson also panned the program:
The lofty rhetoric of the Wolverine Scholar program cannot be squared with the unnecessarily rigid admissions criteria. In my opinion, the only rational explanation is that Michigan seeks a rankings payoff. Here, an elite law school sets a new low in our obsession of form over substances — once again, we legal educators are setting a poor example for our students….
Above the Law’s critiques of the Wolverine Scholar Program are now a matter of record with the American Bar Association thanks to one Michigan Law graduate. Details of his complaint to the ABA after the jump.
So far, Michigan hasn’t been shamed into changing this program, and U.S. News does not seem inclined to do anything to prevent Michigan from gaming the rankings. So I guess the graduate figured that taking the matter to the ABA was the next logical step:
Dear Consultant on Legal Education of the American Bar Association Hulett H. Askew, and Others in the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Whom It May Concern:
This missive is a complaint about a law school from which I was graduated, the University of Michigan Law School or “Michigan Law School” (hereinafter, “MLS” or “the Law School”) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (By the way, I authorize the Consultant on Legal Education to disclose this report and my identity to the law school discussed in the report.)
The complaint is about the “Wolverine Scholars Program” at MLS and its apparent violations of ABA rules, plus its damaging effects on legal education and the welfare of law school applicants, effects to be described below. Due to those violations and effects, the complaint suggests that the ABA consider sanctions against MLS, including denial of ABA accreditation, under Section 16 or other appropriate ABA regulations, until that program has either ceased or been significantly altered so that it no longer violates ABA rules and causes the undesirable effects.
The heart of the argument is that the Wolverine Scholars Program violates Standard 503 of the ABA rules:
Violation of Standard 503
The policy above, most notably the restrictive stipulation that “In order to be considered for the Wolverine Scholars program, applicants must not have taken the LSAT prior to receiving a decision from the Law School”, is a violation of “Standard 503″ from the ABA 2008-2009 Standards for Approval of Law Schools; the Standard is reproduced below for your convenience,
“Standard 503. ADMISSION TEST
A law school shall require each applicant for admission as a first year J.D. student to take a valid and reliable admission test to assist the school and the applicant in assessing the applicant’s capability of satisfactorily completing the school’s educational program. In making admissions decisions, a law school shall use the test results in a manner that is consistent with the current guidelines regarding proper use of the test results provided by the agency that developed the test
Wow, with alumni like these, who needs buckeyes?
The complaint is 24 pages long and extensively cites some of the criticism the program has received, including Above the Law’s September post.
Will the ABA act? I don’t see the ABA taking a hard stand against a top-ten law school over this issue. But you never know. If enough people complain Michigan might find the Wolverine Scholars Program more trouble than it is worth.
Wolverine Scholars Program Complaint.docx [Word.docx]
Earlier: University Of Michigan Law School: Please Stop The Insanity