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Admission officers finding other way to help minorities

Nov. 18, 1997

Admissions officers finding other ways to help minorities

The College Press Exchange

In an effort to maintain diversity in the student body, the University of Texas School of Law strives to modify its application requirements to benefit the disadvantaged without the affirmative action policies that were banned by the Hopwood decision in March 1996.

Academic strength will not be the exclusive focus of the admissions staff, but now applicants will be required to write an essay about 'personal challenges or disadvantatges faced in their lifetime,' a UT news release said. An applicant's grade point average and his or her score on the Law School Admissions Test will be considered with other 'indicators of academic promise.'

Evaluations will also consider qualities that are valuable to the legal profession, the law school classroom and the community, such as demonstrated commitment to public service, and leadership, the release said.

Admissions policies for the Baylor University School of Law also changed as a result of the Hopwood decision. Like all law schools, the applicants with LSAT scores and gpa's on the extreme ends are denied if exceptionally low or accepted if exceptionally high, Dean of the Baylor School of Law Bradley J. B. Toben said.

'In between the two ends of the spectrum, all the intangibles are taken into consideration for admission,' Toben said. 'The applicants work and life experience, personal character, academic potential and all the things that make up the person are a part of the decision process.'

This fall, the UT law school enrolled four black students and 26 Hispanic students in its incoming class of 468, down from 31 blacks and 42 Hispanics last fall. The law school revamped its admission criteria because of the Hopwood decision, a March 1996 ruling from the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that barred consideration of race to enroll a diverse student body.

In a broad interpretation of the ruling, Texas Attornry General Dan Morales advised Texas colleges and universities they cannot use race as a factor in admissions or financial aid at either the graduate or undergraduate levels.

The Hopwood decision applies to Baylor as a private institution because Baylor receives federal school aid funding, Toben said. The Baylor School of Law had an affirmative action policy prior to the decision because the law school has a very competitive applicant pool. Their admissions staff takes special note of socioeconomic and educational disadvantages of applicants, and applicants can indicate, at their option, any specific information relating to life experience that may help in the decision process, Toben said.

The UT law school's new guidelines will apply to applicants for the fall of 1998. They will help identify candidates who are academically qualified, but also come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. After reviewing applicant's files, some candidates will be invited to personal interviews with the faculty, staff, current students or alumni.

'We want to identify a substantial number of applicants whose files present a particularly strong case on nontraditional criteria and offer those applicants an interview as part of our selection process,' law school Dean Michael Sharlot said in the news release.

'We do not require interviews, but we do conduct some interviews with applicants visiting the school from out-of-town,' Toben said. 'The interview is not a factor in admissions, however; it is designed to give the applicant more information on the school and answer any questions they may have.'

Associate Dean Cynthia Estlund at UT said the added criteria will be considered among academically qualified applicants. She acknowledged that other factors will be considered in an appropriate manner.

The school has a 'strong interest in admitting academically qualified people' and officials intend to apply the criteria 'in a good faith and fair manner,' Estlund said.

contributed to by Jennifer Jones

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