Affirmative Action, Law Reviews, Law Schools, Minority Issues, Racism, Reader Polls

Campus Strife Over Law Review Diversity

The only thing more obsolete than this building is what is inside it.

Some students at the University of Chicago Law School are up in arms because the school’s law review rejected a diversity proposal recommended by the school’s faculty. This rejection leaves Chicago’s law review as the only one at a top law school without any diversity component for choosing student staffers.

UPDATE (8:00 p.m.): A Chicago tipster clarifies: “While the faculty supported the Chicago Law Review diversity proposal, it was written and proposed by law review leadership,” which advocated for it strongly.

This is the point in the post where everybody, including my colleagues, expects me to scream RACEISM™ and jump up and down on the generally right-leaning law school. But honestly, I just don’t care. I just don’t give a damn if a law school is choosing spots on its law review fairly, unfairly, with racial animus, or based on cup size. NOBODY READS THEM. More people will read this post about the Chicago Law Review than will actually read the law review.

And really, if we’re going to pretend that getting on to law review is some important measure of student success or achievement, then maybe Chicago Law needs to do a better job of educating minority and female students at the school so that they might achieve at the same level of success as the white males who “win” this generally irrelevant prize….

Look, if you think that minorities and woman are just genetically dumber than white males, you should just stop reading. I’m not going to have anything for you. If you think that the melanin just somehow seeps into the brains of certain people and renders them unable to competently sub-cite, just go away and don’t have children.

If you believe that women and minorities can, you know, BE TAUGHT THINGS, let’s talk. I support affirmative action in admissions because I think that diversity is a good thing to have in an educational environment. I also think standardized tests are largely bulls**t factors that largely gauge how well you’ve been taught the test rather than anything objectively important. I support affirmative action in employment because employers can be racist and sexist. I support affirmative action when it comes to hiring faculty because being Republican doesn’t necessarily mean you are too odious to teach children. I support leveling the playing field when it is obvious that the field is unfairly tilted towards one side.

On Chicago’s law review, things certainly seem unfairly tilted. Tipsters report that out of 40 current staffers, only 11 are women and only one is a person of color.

Okay, that’s bad. Here’s the faculty proposal to fix it that was rejected by the law review:

The proposed diversity program called for continuing to select 33 staffers according to the current competition rules — 2/3 grade on, 1/3 write on. The remaining 7 spots would have been women and minorities (as defined by LSAC) selected from the next top 10 highest scores in the grade on and writing competitions. That is, the 7 spots would first be filled by any women or minorities in the next top 10 slots of grade on. Then, if that didn’t fill all 7 diversity spots, the remainder would be filled from the next top 10 highest scores on the writing side of the competition. In other words, it was a very modest proposal that was based on empirical data provided by the administration showing that this would have made a significant difference in improving diversity on UCLR.

Sure, that would work. That’s the easiest solution… we have some women and minorities who under-perform their white male counterparts on law school exams, so let’s make it easier for those students to grade on.

That’s easy. You know what’s hard? Figuring out WHY women and minorities are underperforming on your stupid exams, then doing something TO FIX IT. You’re a goddamn school. You don’t see Professor Charles Xavier tell Cyclops to put Nightcrawler on the team because “We need more blue people.” You see Professor X TEACHING Nightcrawler how to be a badass mutant who can fully harness all of his powers to help save the day.

Nobody comes to law school “knowing” how to perform the stylized and useless task of being on law review. But it seems likely that white males come to school with a little more practice in presenting themselves favorably to a group of other white males who believe it is really important to spend all of their free time fact-checking.

You know, it’s not unlike learning to dance. Dancing is a stylized, useless activity that some people choose to participate in because it will make them more likely to get a blowjob. Despite what every comedy movie in the past 80 years may have told you, minorities, gays, and women are not genetically predisposed to have more pleasing, graceful, and rhythmic body movements than white males. What is true, in many cases, is that women and minorities have spent more time PRACTICING dancing. They’ve done it more often, in more varied situations. When your “I have black friends” friend is dancing at your wedding, it’s not his first rodeo.

We could have affirmative action on the dance floor, and make sure that the three best white male dancers received all the “propers” accorded to the minority dancers. But, if I were running a school, I think my first thought would be to TEACH WHITE PEOPLE TO DANCE instead of throwing up my hands and acting like they were beyond repair.

Or, I could just not care about dancing as much as I don’t care about law review. To quote the great Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: “I got some real honest-to-god battles to fight, Leo. I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.”

But Joe Patrice has that time. Let me let him speak on behalf of those who want to be part of a publication nobody will read.

JOE: Elie, you ignorant slut. You’ve worked on the Internet for too long. Obviously more people will read this post than a single issue of the Chicago Law Review, but not everything is about traffic. Serving on the editorial board of a law review still provides a massive advantage for students hoping to score clerkships or prestigious Biglaw positions. Even if the act of editing a law review is little more than Bluebooking, it still matters, and Chicago’s law review is the only T14 law review that expends no effort to ensure that historically disadvantaged students are not getting shut out of this opportunity. [UPDATE (5/23/2014, 11:25 a.m.): A tipster says that Duke Law also eschews diversity programs for its journals.]

The most shocking aspect of your argument is that it ultimately justifies the end of all affirmative action. “Women and minorities can learn things, so let’s fix the schools instead.” I’m a “do both” kind of guy. Making schools a more effective environment for reaching students of different backgrounds is great, but at the end of the day, there are advantages that can’t be erased just with good schooling. If, say for example, your father was a lawyer and former governor of a state, you’d be coming into law school with advantages and insights that school alone can’t afford other students.

To your argument that “nobody comes to law school ‘knowing’” how to do law review, that’s not the point as much as some do show up better able to succeed at the “neutral” arbiters of grading and writing that we use to choose editors. I certainly felt that (some of) the kids of multiple generations of lawyers in my class had an understanding of how to “think like a lawyer” 1L year that I couldn’t get right away. If they outperformed me in the first semester, that’s not a sign NYU didn’t know how to teach, it’s just what happens when people come from different backgrounds. So when the school has an opportunity to take action to ensure that students from traditionally underrepresented groups in the profession might get a prestigious opportunity to bolster the diversity of our profession’s next generation, that should be encouraged. It’s really no different than affirmative action at any level.

Plus, YOU’RE the guy who says affirmative action should be “all about diversity” these days. I agree that diversity makes academia better. And Chicago might want to consider it because its cloistered approach to law review has produced the least prestigious law review of the top 14 law schools. How’s that “neutral meritocracy” working out?

And to your point about Charles Xavier, they let f**king Jubilee on that team! Her power was being a flashlight! So let’s not crown the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters as a paragon of meritocracy. Even if they were nice to bring on lame mutants too, they are also neck-deep in the practice I call “white affirmative action” — legacy appointments. Have you counted how many goddamned Summers/Grey siblings/children/clones have gone there? And they ALL sucked.

You capped your bad argument with a bad analogy.

Fair enough. What do you guys think? It’s reader poll time.

How should Chicago Law Review Handle Diversity Issues?

  • Ignore it. (51%, 789 Votes)
  • End all law reviews, everywhere, for all time. (33%, 505 Votes)
  • Adopt the diversity plan supported by the administration. (16%, 254 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,546

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Earlier: America’s Next Top Law Review: New Rankings!

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