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Rutgers Deans Defend Admissions Program Dear Editor: We write in response to Stephen Petrillo’s factually inaccurate account of Rutgers Law School-Newark’s admissions program [Voice of the Bar, 172 N.J.L.J. 104, April 14]. Mr. Petrillo mischaracterizes the operation of the law school’s admissions program both as it existed in 1998 and as it exists today. More importantly, as this publication reported in its June 12, 2000, issue, the Rutgers-Newark faculty adopted a new admissions policy that went into effect in February 2000, under which the Minority Student Program plays no role. The MSP does continue to play a vital role in the law school in its post-admissions functions of academic, cultural, social and professional support and continues to graduate many talented, well-educated lawyers who rapidly become leaders in the profession in New Jersey and across the nation. The Rutgers application invites all applicants to join the MSP, provided they are committed to doing the extra work. The goal of the admissions program is to select students with outstanding academic promise and who will contribute to the intellectual discourse in the classroom and become leaders in the legal profession. The Rutgers-Newark faculty has long recognized that the LSAT in combination with the undergraduate grade point average may be a good predictor of first-year law school grades for some, but not all applicants. It is not considered an adequate predictor of either long-term success in law school or the profession. Therefore, the admissions program permits all applicants to indicate that they instead want their application considered primarily on education and employment experiences, personal and academic accomplishments, community service, socioeconomic background, extraordinary family circumstances and the contribution the applicant will make to the overall diversity of the school. While race and ethnicity are factors that may be considered, they are not themselves dispositive. Instead, the admissions committee (composed of three administrators and two faculty members), is able to consider how those and other factors may have affected the experience of the applicant as the applicant expresses that experience in his or her personal statement and how that experience is likely to impact the applicant’s ability to handle the rigors of law school and to add to the discourse in the classroom and the law school community. The faculty designed the admissions process to give each and every applicant careful, individual consideration. The three administrators on the committee read every applicant’s file and the faculty members on the committee read some of the files. Two of the administrators are lawyers and graduates of the law school who have substantial legal experience. The third is a seasoned admissions professional with 18 years in law school admissions and student services. Mr. Petrillo attacks the merits of the admissions program by arguing that it is inherently unfair because a hypothetical applicant – a disadvantaged white applicant who was educated in an inner city school and who financed his or her own tuition at a public college or university – “might not make the cut,” while an affluent minority applicant may get in. In fact, the program is designed to identify the very applicants Mr. Petrillo is concerned might not be admitted. By providing applicants the opportunity to present additional information, we create more opportunities for all applicants to distinguish themselves. We know from experience that a person’s character – the will and ability to succeed as evidenced by his or her history of overcoming adversity – may be just as important as his or her performance on a standardized test. Thus, the disadvantaged white applicant Mr. Petrillo describes is more likely to be admitted under the Rutgers system than under one that focuses primarily on LSAT and undergraduate grade point average. Although he does not say so expressly, Mr. Petrillo implies that an admissions program that does not put primary emphasis on LSAT and undergraduate grade point average above all other factors is flawed and unfair. We disagree. Moreover, we know that an admissions system that puts undue emphasis on those factors would return institutions of higher education and the professions at large to the de facto segregation that existed in this country between the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Educationand the advent of affirmative action programs in the late 1960s. We believe that such a system is morally indefensible. This year, we have received approximately 3,700 applications for the 240 seats in the entering day and evening divisions. Reading that number of files is demanding work and making fair decisions on the “whole application” requires members of the admissions committee to read many files more than once and to meet to discuss the files. We consider the process essential to identifying the best candidates among a talented pool. The law school is willing to commit the necessary resources to the process because we believe it is fair to all applicants and results in an overall strong class. Moreover, the resulting diversity of background and experience is central to the law school’s mission and the benefits to the legal education we provide are invaluable. Stuart L. Deutsch, Dean and Professor Frances V. Bouchoux, Associate Dean for Admissions and Career Services Forward or in Reverse, Discrimination Is Bad Dear Editor: It may be coincidence that Mark Tushnet’s op-ed supporting “affirmative action” in the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions standards appeared in the same edition as the editorial board’s half-hearted effort to oppose a “dedicated black seat” on the N.J. Supreme Court [171 N.J.L.J. 1171-1172, March 31]. Neither Mr. Tushnet’s nor the editorial’s position comports with my understanding of the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which clearly states that no State shall ” . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection under the laws.” The media refers to affirmative action as reverse discrimination, which at its best is a misnomer. Discrimination that causes one person to suffer in order to benefit another is discrimination plain and simple. It matters not who is victimized and who is benefited. Universal objective standards should apply to law school admissions as well as to appointments to the Supreme Court. The evil of discrimination should be disdained by all and prohibited to public entities. Harvey J. Michelman Dover

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