The war on standards, Yale Law Journal edition

The Yale Law Journal has been accused of racial bias by some Black students. And it does appear that the Journal is biased — in favor of Blacks.

According to the Washington Free Beacon:

The conflagration began on Tuesday after a Journal editor, Gavin Jackson, resigned, saying he felt “used and tokenized” in his position. Jackson’s resignation elicited furious statements from a raft of affinity groups at the law school, which are demanding that the Journal “prioritize anti-racism” over meritocratic selection, the postings show. The controversy played out on a student message board, the postings from which were reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The activists made no concrete demands about numeric representation but alleged “inequities” in Journal admissions. “Meeting with affinity groups to present platitudes about valuing diversity in the admissions process is insufficient,” the Black Law Students Association said. “The Journal must commit to fundamental changes to its governance structure, admissions policy, submission plan, and slating that will ensure this perpetuation of racism does not ever happen again.”

The numbers are, indeed, suggestive of racism, but against non-Blacks, not Blacks:

Not only are blacks and Hispanics elected for membership to the top law school’s most prestigious journal at a higher rate than their white counterparts, but the membership rate for blacks—61 percent—is higher than that of any other ethnic group.

Of the 13 Blacks who sought admission to the Journal, 8 were admitted, a selection rate of around 62 percent. For all applicants, the rate was only 38 percent.

Furthermore, Blacks comprise 16 percent of Journal admits, and Latinos almost 30 percent, even though they make up just 7 percent and 11 percent percent of the student body, respectively.

Are Yale’s Black law students that much more qualified for the school’s top journal than Whites? I doubt it.

One way to test that question would be to compare the grades of Black and White students selected for the Journal. Yale doesn’t have grades in the traditional sense. Apparently, virtually every student in every class is graded either “Honors” or “Pass.” And even that low degree of differentiation does not occur until after the first semester.

Still, it would be interesting to compare the degree to which Black and Whites selectees for the law Journal receive “Honors” (assuming that selections are made after the second semester, as was the case when I was in law school). But it would take a court order and maybe an act of Congress to pry that data loose.

We can be pretty sure, however, that Blacks admitted to Yale law school have less aptitude for studying law than their White counterparts. The median LSAT for all Yale law school admittees is 173, according to the Free Beacon. In 2004, only 29 Blacks nationwide scored above 170 on that test.

Given numbers like these, it would be astonishing if Black applicants for the Journal, as a group, are better law students and better writers/editors than other applicants. Yet, they are more likely than non-Blacks to be selected.

In sum, although Yale does a good job of hiding its numbers, its seems clear enough that Blacks are being favored by the law school, both when it comes to admission to study law at Yale and when it comes to selecting members of its most prestigious journal.

If math weren’t so “racist,” you would have to conclude that claims of discrimination against Blacks by the Yale Law Journal are whiney rubbish.

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