Monthly Archives: November 1978

1978.11.30: Leon Letwin Admissions Task Force Report memo to faculty

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LOS ANGELES: SCHOOL OF LAW

November· 30, 1978

To: Faculty

From: Leon Letwin

Re: Admissions Task Force Report

Two comments, first, on an issue of tone in the Report;

and second, a specific proposal :

I. The Report identifies various forms of diversity,

racial and ethnic among them, and treats them all as though

of equal importance. I think this is wrong. It would not be

hard to picture a law school that placed little emphasis, say,

on admitting Ph . D’s. It would be unthinkable that we would

place little emphasis on recruiting ethnic and minority students

. In my view, nothing the law school has done in the past

decade · exceeds in importance its minority student program.

If we agree, we should say so. There are different kinds and

degrees of discrimination, and to lump together very different

things may be to trivialize the truly i mportant. Racial discrimination

is a paramount social problem in our society.

Student diversity that helps us to think about discrimination,

its manifestations within the legal system, and alternate legal

strategies for dealing with it, is also of paramount importance .

We should therefore explicitly recognize the special place of

racial and ethnic minorities in the fulfillment of our diversity

goals.

II. I do not agree that the m~n~mum test for admission

should be whether “it is probable that [the student] . . . will

be able to complete law school successfully and . . . be admitted

to the bar by passing a bar examination” (par . l(a) p . 17)–

at least if “probable” is meant to require literally at l east

a 50+% chance of success, and therefore to absolutely preclude

someone with, say, only a 45% chance. First, as we have always

recognized, legal education can be a career benefit whether or

not accompanied by bar admission . In any case, there is no magi c

to the 50% line . Sometimes it is reasonable to permit people t o

compete for a position ·only if their chance for success is far

above the 50% level. Other times , it is reasonable to permit

them to compete even if they have only a s.light chance of succe s s.

Where the line is drawn is a matter of policy. A 50% line is

entirely arbitrary, and no showing is made t hat for our purposes

it is the appropriate place to draw the line. . To do so is particularly

objectionable when tha.t limitation is coupl ed with the

prop-os~d 40% maximum ori discre.ti.bnary admi s’sfons. The operation

~ of these two rules together–the 50% “probable success” rule

. and . the .40% maximum discretionary admissions rule–seems to me

to diminish the likelihood of an adequate pool of m~nority

candidates to assure .a “substantial number” or a “critical

mass.”

-2-

I would change the language of paragraph l(a), p. 17,

as follows: replace “probable” with “substantial reason to

believe.”

I would also establish the 40% discretionary admit figure

as only a presumptive line, capable of being changed in

either direction. Just as the Report permits the 40% to be

decreased once diversity objectives have been met, so it should

be permitted to expand if they have not, assuming qualified

persons are still available for consideration.

Again, I would not equate “qualified” with a mathematical

50+% chance of success.

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