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Enrolling Minorities for the Right Reasons

January 07, 2003

Paul Brest's Jan. 3 commentary rehashes a weak make-weight argument in support of law schools taking race into account when making admissions decisions. His argument is that the values and experiences of ethnic minorities provide important "reality checks" in the classroom. This argument demeans minority students by suggesting that their principal role in law school is to add to white students' educational experiences. It is also factually incorrect: The values and experiences of ethnic minority students are as diverse as those of their nonminority counterparts, and law schools now admit students with diverse backgrounds without explicitly taking race into account.

I agree with Brest that race can be a legitimate factor in law schools' admissions processes. However, my reason is that it is the right thing to do because a stable social order requires fair participation from people of all social backgrounds. In my opinion, a Supreme Court decision upholding the use of race in the admissions process on the grounds that Brest suggests would be inherently weak and of dubious precedential value.

Paul Bergman

Professor of Law, UCLA

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