SA The Michigan Daily - Thursday, December 4, 1997
Law admissions rely
on more than race
B Janet Adamy
ay Staff Reporter
In a complicated process that is more subjec-
tive than formulaic, race is one factor among
many that admissions officials use when selecting
students for the University's Law School.
"I think people looking from the outside think
it's sort of an equation," said Dennis Shields,
assistant dean and director of admission for the
Law School. "Well, that's not the case.
"Certainly race and ethnicity is one thing, but if
they do not have a good (Law School Admissions
Test) score, write good essays and have good
grades, then clearly we would not admit them,"
Shields said more emphasis is placed on appli-
cants' LSAT scores and academic record, which
includes the trend of an applicant's grades, the
rigor of their academic curriculum and the repu-
tation of the undergraduate institution they
Shields said admissions counselors also look
carefully at applicants' essays because they give a
sense of what applicants have done and where
"It's another way of gauging what kind of a per-
son they might be," Shields said.
In addition to a mandatory personal statement,
applicants have the option of submitting two other
essays. One of the optional essays focuses on
aspects of an applicant's background and past
experiences that will contribute to the diversity
the Law School wishes to foster.
"Clearly we think that race and ethnicity is
something that can be addressed here," Shields
Shields said this essay gives applicants an
opportunity to show how racial and ethnic diver-
sity offers applicants different perspectives,
which is an important component of legal educa-
"One of the reasons we asked that question is
that we did not want the (race and ethnicity) box
to mean everything, Shields said.
All of the essays are used to evaluate the quali-
"T here's not some
sort of magic formula
that makes ithappen"
- Dennis Shields
Assistant Dean of the Law School
ty of the candidate's thinking and ability to artic-
ulate ideas effectively.
Applicants have the option of identifying their
race or ethnicity on the Law School application.
Law Dean Jeffrey Lehman said "race is an
important factor ... though one of many factors."
Shields stressed that applicants are not evaluat-
ed using a formula. Instead, admissions officials
go through each application and look for students
who seem likely to succeed in the law profession
and contribute to the diversity of the Law School,
"There's not some sort of magic formula that
makes it happen," Shields said. "Bright people,
energetic people, people who are committed to
the intellectual enterprise."
Applications go through the Law School
Admissions Council, a national clearinghouse for
law school applicants in the United States and
Canada that reviews transcripts for authenticity
and converts undergraduate GPAs to a 4.0 scale.
In addition to their academic history, applicants
are asked to submit information regarding acade-
mic honors, extracurricular activities, community
service, employment experience, hobbies and
special academic pursuits. Applicants submit at
least one recommendation.
Because 30-35 percent of University Law stu-
dents are Michigan residents, in-state applicants
have an advantage over out-of-state applicants.
The son or daughter of an out-of-state Law
School alumni is treated as an in-state applicant.
Shields said the Law School's admissions pro-
cedures are similar to those of comparable institu-
Grids one of many admis si
By Jeffrey Kosseff
Daily Staff Reporter
Although two lawsuits currently threaten the
University's affirmative action policies, the
University does not deny the use of race as a
factor in its admissions decisions.
The lawsuits stem in part from research done
by philosophy Prof. Carl Cohen on the admis-
sions policies of the Office of Undergraduate
Admissions and other University colleges.
Through Freedom of Information Act requests he
has filed since 1995, Cohen obtained University
admissions grids and compared acceptance rates
of minority and non-minority students.
For some of the colleges, there are two dis-
tinct rows on the grids that determine whether
a student is admitted - one for students of
underrepresented minority groups and one for
Asian and white students.
Vice President for University Relations
Walter Harrison said the grids are not the final
determination for undergraduate admission.
"They are only guidelines for the counselors
who review the applications," Harrison said.
"There are all kinds of factors."
After students apply to the University, their
high school transcripts and guidance counselor
recommendations are received by a clerk who
recalculates the students' GPAs based on core
class grades from freshman, sophomore and
junior years in high school, Harrison said.
When the new GPA is computed, the applica-
tion is sent to a counselor who reviews it based
on the region of the country from which the stu-
dent hails. That allows the counselors to become
familiar with individual high schools, he said.
Once the counselors receive the application,
they employ a system using the factors of
School, Curriculum, Unusual, Geographic and
Alumni, in addition to GPA, to weigh an 4ppli-
cant's merit for admission.x
Factors considered under SCUGA include
quality of high school, rigor of curriculum, lead-
ership and service, contributions to a diverse
class, geographic factor and alumni factor.
An applicant who comes from "a federally
recognized underrepresented race or ethnicity"
would receive a Sincrease under the SCUGA
category of "contribution to a diverse class,"
according to the SCUGA policy.
The SCUGA index adds and subtracts points
on a student's GPA, and that total score
becomes the student's selection index.
Once the selection index is computed, it is
measured with the student's standardized test
scores on a grid. There are two grids - one for
Source. LSA Freshman Guidelins
ons factors °.
in-state students and relatives of alumni a
one for out-of-state students. Within each grrt
there-is one row for Asian American and wkie
students and another for underrepresented
The grid's combination of the test scores amd
selectiop index instructs the counselors'
admit, deny or postpone decision on the stu
One gid obtained by Cohen lists the instrq
tions that admission counselors followed when
they evaluated students who qualified for bptl
in-state and legacy status for the fall 1996 ent&r
ing class. According to the grids, there are di
crepancies between the qualifications of minor.
ity and non-minority students who are accepted:
For example, minority applicants with GPA
between 3.0 and 3.1 and ACT scores betweenZ2
and 23 were accepted, while majority applicans
in the same category were rejected.
"In so many cases, the majority applicati.
is rejected and the minority is admitte!
Cohen said "This is a violation of applicant,
Harrison said the !grids only serve as guild
for the counselors, arid factors such as a strog
essay are considered in addition to the suggesj
tion of the grid. -
IIlH' 1 H '-
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