“By excusing favored students from the LSAT, schools would make their preferences more opaque and challenges to them harder to prove.”
Disregarding standardized tests and not requiring them for admissions is a new trend in higher ed, but is it a good idea?
Professor Paul Sracic of Youngstown State University writes at the Wall Street Journal:
The LSAT and Other Standardized Tests Are Good for Diversity
I attended a conference a few years ago for undergraduate “prelaw advisers”—academics, usually professors or deans, who guide undergraduates through the law-school admissions process. An admissions official from a prestigious law school used a file from a past applicant (with identifying information removed) to illustrate the review process. She began by noting the student’s high grade point average from “a good school.” That bothered me, because I knew she’d never call my regional state institution a “good school.”
I thought: Thank goodness for the Law School Admissions Test. Only the LSAT gives the mostly working-class, first-generation college students I teach a shot at the top law schools.
The Journal reported in May that the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, is considering a proposal to abandon its requirement that applicants take a “valid and reliable admissions test.” This is likely a pre-emptive response to a case the Supreme Court will hear in its 2022-23 term. In Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, the justices will consider whether to overturn Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), which approved the use of racial preferences in admissions to further the “compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.”
If the court overturns Grutter, race-conscious university admissions systems will be subject to renewed court challenges. Racial disparities in admitted students’ scores on standardized tests are the strongest evidence of discrimination in admissions, as Justice Anthony Kennedy detailed in his Grutter dissent.
By excusing favored students from the LSAT, schools would make their preferences more opaque and challenges to them harder to prove. An LSAT-optional policy would also cause average scores to rise by eliminating lower ones from the pool. That would push the school’s average score up, creating competitive pressure on top schools to adopt such policies.
Writing for the majority in Grutter, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor affirmed the need “to assemble a student body that is not just racially diverse, but diverse along all the qualities valued by the university.” The experience of my working-class students demonstrates that the LSAT furthers that goal.
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