Status quo is bliss
Richard Sander, a highly regarded UCLA law professor and statistician,
is conducting research with important implications for higher
education.† To complete the research, which has been the subject of
many scholarly articles and intense academic interest, he needs access
to a California government database.
So why has the State Bar, which controls the database, denied Sander
and his research team access to the records? Because Sanderís subject
is affirmative action, the mere mention of which raises blood pressure
levels among bureaucrats of all political persuasions. And because
Sanderís research breaches a taboo of political correctness: he
hypothesizes that affirmative action, at least in top law schools,
actually hurts the minority students it is designed to help.
It does this, Sander suggests, by landing minority students--and other
students who receive a major preference--in academic settings for which
they havenít been adequately prepared. The resulting ďmismatchĒ between
their preparation and the preparation needed to succeed in such schools
disadvantages students admitted under affirmative action policies.
Sander theorizes these students might have had a better chance of
passing the Bar exam--and becoming practicing lawyers--if they had,
instead, attended a less selective law school.
Whatever oneís views on the politically divisive issue of
affirmative action, thereís no disputing that Sanderís research raises
questions of public importance. If the State Barís records prove
Sanderís suppositions wrong, affirmative action policies can be pursued
with greater confidence in their legitimacy. If Sander turns out to be
right, no academic institution in the country will be able to avoid a
serious reexamination of its use of affirmative action.
You would think that the California State Bar, which promotes
diversity in the legal profession and claims to be concerned about low
bar pass rates for minority students, would welcome and encourage
Sanderís research. After all, his research could provide answers to
questions about disparities in bar admissions that have vexed the Bar
The Bar, however, does not want answers.