November 25, 1968
Prof. Letwin Calls for Goal of 25% Minority Student Enrollment
by Jim Birmingham
Increasing the percentage of minority group members in the student body of this law school is clearly a goal which has attracted much attention recently. Unfortunately, few of the persons discussing the problem have given it much serious thought. Those who have studied the issue tend to be reticent in discussing the imp licatioi1s of such a program.
One of the less reticent scholars in this field may be Professor Leon Letwin, who recently addressed the Conference of California Law Schools on some aspects of this topic.
(This Conference, composed of 13 of the State’s 14 accredited law schools, authorized Dean Richard Maxwell to petition the national Council on Legal Educational Opportunities for two summer programs in the state next year, with an enrollment of 120 students. Last summer’s UCLA program for 40 students was one of four in the nation.)
Letwin called for a goal of minority student enrollment approximating the population ratio in the external community. Using California as a base this would mean a rate of between 20 to 25% of the incoming student body. He feels this could be achieved in a few years.
Letwin, however, is careful when stating such goals to label them as personal. He emphasizes that his views are not official statements of Law School policy or of the Admissions and Standards Committee, of which he is chairman. Even the student members of this committee seem to share the feeling that it is too early to discuss possible committee recommendations.
This hesitancy is understandable only when the observer understands some of the related questions raised by this goal. Thus, for instance, while Letwin seems to feel that it would not be too many years before Black and Chicano students could be found in sufficient number to meet the traditional law school admission requirements, he suggests that these may not be the requirements appropriate for “community lawyers.”
Pointing out that the Law School Admission Test is not designed to measure the ability to work with and understand community problems, Letwin suggests that community leadership, tenacity and identification may be more valid criteria. In the same vein he suggests that after these students are admitted we should be thinking about the curriculum and testing methods against which they will be measured.
This latter point opens up the question of the effect minority students will have on both the faculty and their fellow students, as Letwin suggested in his Conference remarks. Certainly the limited-time written examination system. bears not much more relevance to the actual working situation of an attorney in the white-anglo community than it would to the Black or Chicano practitioner. And an enriched curriculum and more diversified faculty might offer equal advantages to all groups.
While certain “problems” might be unique for the minority student there are a broad range of problems which clearly cut across the field of goals and aspirations of the entire student body and faculty.
For instance, if admission standards may be revised for minority students, shouldn’t they be revised for all new students? If these admission standards are changed, what effect will this have on the argument now advocated by some students that grades should be abolished on the theory that the admission procedure is selective enough to warrant the presumption that you must be good enough to succeed if you were good enough to be admitted?