Law Students Worried About Racism At Penn

PHILADELPHIA--Students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School are concerned with a rapid decline in the number of minority students enrolled at the school and the allegedly racist attitudes of some white students.

Minority student enrollment at the Law School--which currently has no tenured Blacks or women on its faculty--has declined by 53 per cent over three years according to the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

"Both subtle and overt signs point to deeply-rooted racist attitudes in the Law School," James Katz, a law student, said, adding that an incomplete study of student attitudes toward minority students "is rumored to contain graphic and emotional testimony of deep racial division at the Law School."

But Law School officials said that racism is no more a problem at the Law School than in society in general. "I think the Law School probably reflects racism to a lesser degree than society as a whole," Phyllis Beck, vice-dean of the school, said.

Ralph Smith, one of two Black nontenured law professors, said the decline in minority enrollment is due mainly to "a substantive change" in admissions policy following the Bakke "reverse dicrimination" case.


The Law School used to have a separate committee to review minority applications, but after the Bakke case was settled three years ago, the committee was merged with the general admissions committee, Smith said.

Pat Petty, a member of the Black Law Students Union, said that "many of my white colleagues have not seen me as their equal."

A member of the Latin American Law Student Association said he was told by a white classmate that he resented the fact that the school admitted Hispanics and that his friends were not admitted to Penn because "people like you take the places of people like me."