Berkeley Law Students Protest ETS Formulas for Admission

An alleged over-reliance on mathematical formulas in admissions policy at the University of California at Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall) threatens to spark a campus "crisis," The Daily Californian, the student newspaper, reported April 1.

The issue centers around an Education Testing Service (ETS) formula used to average the applicant's grade-point average and Law School Aptitude Test score, arriving at a projected grade point average (PGA) for the applicant's potential law school career.

Students are complaining that Boalt Hall has arbitrary acceptance and rejection scores for the PGA, allowing the admissions committee to rule on many applications without reading them.

Since ETS is the administrator of the nationally recognized LSAT's, many law schools use its formula, notably the University of Washington, whose policy is now being challenged before the Supreme Court.

Harvard Law School relies much less on a strict formula, James Berman, assistant dean of admissions, said yesterday. Berman said that of the 7011 applications to the Law School this year, about 4500 will be rejected and 350 accepted after being read by only one of the six admissions committee members. The 2000 remaining applicants are referred to one or more other members on the committee. The committee is more likely to review a borderline acceptance than a near rejection, Berman said.

The guidelines for acceptance-rejection on the first reading are very subjective, Berman said, but there is a suggested formula.

For applicants from Harvard College, this formula is: reject--3.25 grade-point average (GPA) combined with 650 LSAT or lower; accept--3.5 GPA with 700 LSAT or higher. To translate these averages to a mixed GPA-LSAT, multiply the GPA by 200 and add it to the LSAT. A combination of 1300 is the maximum for an automatic reject, and a 1400 combination is the minimum instant accept.

Berman declined to release the formula Harvard uses in evaluating applicants from other colleges, but said that they scale the applicant's GPA to equate it to Harvard College grading. Berman explained that a 3.7 average at Princeton is scaled up to equal a Harvard 3.78 average, but a Princeton 3.4 GPA is scaled down to a Harvard 3.2 GPA.

This system is designed to give Harvard-Radcliffe College applicants to the Law School an advantage over other applicants, Berman said, but of all colleges, Harvard has the highest ratio of acceptances to total applications. Last year, of 424 applicants from Harvard, 132 were accepted. Only half of these were from the senior class, however. The rest of the acceptances were graduates.

This year, 725 people have been accepted to fill a class of 540. Berman said the admissions office is waiting until June to mail the rest of the acceptances. Depending on how many students accept Harvard's offer, Berman said he hopes to accept from 50 to 65 more