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Gail Heriot's op-ed "The ABA's 'Diversity' Diktat1" (April 28) regarding diversity and law school is right on point. I can accept the argument in favor of affirmative action for undergrads. However, when discussing graduate school and especially professions such as medicine, engineering, law, etc., affirmative action has no place. When it comes to these competitive and difficult professions, race or background should not matter. Let's pose the question: Does a doctor get more time to perform a surgery because of his race? Does an engineer get more time to draw the schematics of a bridge because he grew up in a "rough neighborhood?" Does an attorney get more time to respond to a motion because he is a minority?
When it comes to these professions, it should be strictly undergraduate school, undergraduate grades, test scores, essays, and resumes -- end of story.
Furthermore, no one is discussing the ramifications for individuals who are accepted by these grad schools who don't graduate or pass the bar, but now incur a serious amount of debt as well as a significant blow to the ego.
Contrary to the statements in Ms. Heriot's op-ed, the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar supports diversity in law schools because it is important to providing a well-rounded education for all students.
The Supreme Court of the U.S. recognized that value in Grutter v. Bollinger. Reflecting that view, the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools require schools to demonstrate by concrete action a commitment to a diverse student body. The standards neither specify the action to be taken nor require any particular result. The standards are adopted by the council of the ABA section, which receives and considers input from law schools, the practicing bar and others interested in the legal profession.
The council is one of numerous accrediting agencies that include diversity standards as part of their approval standards for institutions of higher education. The council's standard on diversity is remarkably similar to the standards used by other professional disciplines. The ABA's diversity standard is premised on sound educational policy, as our nation's military and business communities recognized when they argued for the conclusion reached by the Supreme Court in Grutter.
Further, the standard has widespread support among the legal community, including from academics, practicing lawyers and corporate counsel, and members of the judiciary. Law schools did not oppose the current diversity standard when it was revised in 2006, and there has been widespread acceptance of the standard in the legal education community.
Politics is not a factor in accrediting law schools. Instead, accreditation depends upon the quality of education that a school provides. The sole focus of the ABA's standards is to ensure that quality.
More generally, though, the article misses the essential point. The issue around diversity is not about any individual law school. The salient points are that diversity in law schools adds educational value, and the council supports a rich law school educational experience by encouraging diversity in ways that are constitutionally acceptable.
Randy A. Hertz
Clinical Professor of Law
New York University
School of Law
Chair-Elect, Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
Jerome C. Hafter
Partner, Phelps Dunbar LLP
Vice-Chair, Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar