Recently, Harvard Law School announced plans to expand public university representation in its Junior Deferral Program. This decision comes as part of a larger move on the part of the Law School to make its application process more accessible, including the expansion of the Junior Deferral Program beyond Harvard College and acceptance of the GRE in place of the LSAT.
We have commended the Junior Deferral Program in the past, which allows students to gain real-world experience by deferring their admission to law school for at least two years. Two admissions cycles ago, the program was opened to non-Harvard students, allowing for representation from other universities.
The increased marketing to public university students would be a crucial step to increasing diversity at the Law School, as only seven of the 42 colleges represented in the program are public. By visiting schools in regions that have been historically underrepresented and accepting more of their students, the Law School is benefiting future classes by developing its geographic and institutional diversity.
While this effort is crucial to the success and lasting significance of JDP, the program assumes a certain amount of privilege from its potential applicants. Preparing to take the LSAT early, gaining beneficial experiences and coursework, and being able to commit to law school by junior year of college are all obstacles that would tend to skew JDP applicant pool toward the more privileged.
Just as early admissions in the college application process disproportionately help the privileged and wealthy, we are worried that JDP will have a similar effect. Now that the program admits students irrespective of undergraduate institution, it is critical for the Law School to commit fully and comprehensively to supporting less privileged students, especially those from diverse backgrounds, in the early admissions process. It would be very troubling if the program became yet another potential channel by which students from privileged backgrounds are privileged in the admissions process.
Despite these reservations, we stand by our opinion that JDP is important not least because it encourages students who are most interested in pursuing law to gain a diverse set of experiences outside their academics without the burdens of a postgraduate application. Yet we puzzle over the exact nature of the programs intentions and how those intentions have changed over time with the expansion of the program. We hope that, in clarifying those intentions, the Law School forefronts diversity — of background, as well as intellectual strengths and life experiences.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.