Association Declares American Law Schools Patronize Minorities
A report of the Association of American Law Schools, released this week, concludes that many law schools have adopted "patronizing actions" towards the increased numbers of minority-group law students admitted since the late 1960's.
The 63-page report-based on a survey by the association's Committee on Minority Groups-examines "the various adjustments made by American law schools when the inadequacies of legal education became apparent with the influx of [minority-group] students."
Walter J. Leonard, assistant dean and assistant director of admissions and financial aid at the Law School, co-edited the report. Leonard is one of two black members of the Law School Faculty.
The committee's findings suggest that most law school personnel feel that the majority of minority-group students, when measured against the traditional credentials of law school students, have academic records inferior to those of the "majority-group students."
Law schools have responded to minority students, the report says, by initiating special programs designed to "raise their level of competence" rather than by changing any "basic aspect" of the law school.
"These schools are then 'shocked' and 'disappointed' when the minority-group students do not register immediate and warm acceptance of these programs," the report says.
Eleven interviewers compiled data for the report in interviews last Spring conducted at some 50 law schools that had either a substantial number of minority-group students or had a conscious program of assistance for their minority-group students.
Those 50 schools enrolled about 90 per cent of all minority-group law students in American law schools last year.
The minority groups listed in the report were Black American, American Indian, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Hispano-American, and Others. The association reported 738 minority-group students for the 1969-70 academic year-more than twice that of 1967-68.
The report warns, in its section on "Attitudes and Responses to Minority-Group Programs." that "American law schools may become the focal point of further campus revolutions and disruption" if law school faculties and administrations do not avoid drastic splits on questions of academic policy and educational philosophy.
But the report emphasizes that not all divisive questions can be traced to the influx of minority students.
Minority students evince little interest in grade reforms, it says, and white students are equally, if not more, eager for clinical work. And the desire for more "relevant" courses applies to both groups.
"Several teachers interviewed expressed concern that the deep divergence among faculty on these matters may have the effect of polarizing a faculty already divided on other important matters," it says.
"This in turn," it continues, "may further exacerbate student opinion tending to divide students into two camps-the reactionary and the radical."
While the reaction of white professors and administrators to increased minority representation is almost uniformly favorable, there are substantial differences of opinion on questions of special admission, financial assistance, and academic assistance programs designed for minority-group students.
"Discrimination in the form of compensatory grading, special readmission policies, and lessening of academic requirements for graduation were most often criticized," the report says.
"The committee felt that the acceleration of admission of minority-group students should not become, with all of the other things the faculty might be concerned with, a catalytic agent in further polarizing and dividing the faculties." Leonard said in an interview Thursday.
"What we're saying is that the questions raised by minority-group students are some of the same questions raised by students from majority groups with respect to how the law is to become a functional tool in American society," he said.