Does affirmative action work? An explosive study that suggests it does not is pitting the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights against the State Bar of California in a battle over admissions data that could determine once and for all if racial preferences help or hurt minority students.
"Currently only about one in three African-Americans who goes to an American law school passes the bar on the first attempt and a majority never become lawyers at all," says UCLA law professor Richard Sander.
In an article published in the Stanford Law Review, Sander and his research team concluded several thousand would-be black lawyers either dropped out of law school or failed to pass the bar because of affirmative action.
Known as the ‘mismatch’ effect, Sander claims students who are unprepared and whose academic credentials are below the median are admitted to law schools they are unqualified to attend. If those same students instead were to go to less elite or competitive schools, more would graduate, pass the bar and become lawyers.
You'd think the Bar would want to prove affirmative action's success with statistics. You would think, but you'd be wrong.
Recently, a California bar committee voted 5-3 to turn down Sander’s request to use bar data collected over the last three decades on student test scores, law school admissions, academic performance and bar passage rates....
"There is no answer but to give him the information," says black civil rights attorney Leo Terrell. "What is the state bar afraid of? We need to know."
Interesting. Apparently his previous research was "controversial" because it dared to question the value of affirmative action programs. Apparently, too many black law students drop out of law school, or fail to pass the bar exam, and then have huge law school debts and no lucrative law career with which to repay them. Damn Mr. Sander for pointing that out!
The Board of Governors of the California Bar may reconsider Sander’s request during its November meeting, but for now no one can say whether affirmative action actually does what's intended.