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Law student organizations that serve minorities do more than help their own members. Law school administrators say they bring a mix of students and activities to campus, making a school truly diverse.The organizations offer guidance to minority students and work to focus attention on hot-button issues that often have racial overtones. At South Texas College of Law in Houston, the Black Law Students Association sponsored a symposium last fall on the death penalty, a big topic in Texas and the United States. And the Minority Law Student Association at Baylor University School of Law in Waco, Texas — which has a minority enrollment of about 9 percent — has sponsored some of the highest-drawing events at the campus, including a debate on school prayer and a talk by Anthony Griffin, an African-American lawyer who has defended the First Amendment rights of the Ku Klux Klan. The number of minority students varies among the law schools in Texas. Texas Southern University, a historically black college in Houston, has the highest minority enrollment, with 85 percent at its Thurgood Marshall School of Law, officials there say. St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio has a minority enrollment of 45.6 percent. The other law schools in the state have minority enrollments from about 9 percent to 23 percent, according to school officials and the 2001 edition of the American Bar Association Guide to Approved Law Schools. The national average is roughly 20 percent. All of Texas’ law schools have organizations for minority students, including groups for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Native-Americans. Some have law journals that focus on issues of particular interest to minorities, including St. Mary’s, which launched The Scholar two years ago. Katherine Ramos, one of the five editors for The Scholar, says the mission of the law journal is to be “a voice for the voiceless.” “We look at the gamut of legal issues with a minority twist,” Ramos, a third-year law student, says. She says articles in the semiannual journal have explored unconstitutional stops along the border, which led one Texas town to establish a citizens review committee, and the differences between minority and nonminority juvenile offenders. Upcoming articles will cover American tribal sovereignty, the parental rights of incarcerated women, congressional colonialism in the Mariana Islands and intellectual property protection in Third World countries. Ramos says that writers for The Scholar are diverse and chosen not only for their writing skills, but also for the perspective they can bring because of their life experience. Officials at the schools say the minority student groups help in recruitment and retention of minorities. “Their presence helps attract minority students,” says Assistant Dean Wanda Morrow of South Texas College of Law, which has a minority enrollment of about 23 percent. “They serve as mentors.” BLSA also has conducted voter registration drives at local grocery stores and held mock trials to educate high school students about the legal profession, Morrow says. “Once the student is here, they provide a support group,” says Susana Aleman, assistant dean of student affairs at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, where the minority enrollment is 17.3 percent. “It eases their minds to know that the transition will be smooth.” Brie Franco, president of the university’s Chicano /Hispanic Law Students Association and a third-year law student, says her group is involved in myriad activities, including note-taking and test-taking sessions for first-year students, interviewing workshops and mentoring of new minority students. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION At Texas Tech University School of Law, student minority groups help combat what can be the school’s biggest hurdle in attracting minority students — location. “Students are concerned because there’s not a big minority community in Lubbock,” says Dean W. Frank Newton. The school’s minority enrollment stands at 12.4 percent. “We have to work very hard to maintain a level of minority and international students,” says Newton. He acknowledges the importance of student organizations in maintaining, and hopefully increasing, the school’s level of diversity. Says Newton: “We’re aided by the organizations that are here. They are very important in recruiting students and equally important in helping mentor minority law students.” Minority organizations are also invaluable to recruitment efforts at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth, says John Veilleux, director of marketing and communication. Each year, the university holds its special “law days” for accepted applicants to come get a look at the school, and many minority student groups participate in the event, setting up tables and staffing them with representatives to meet with students and share experiences or address concerns. Minority students make up 22 percent of the law school population. “It’s a huge advantage,” Veilleux says. “When you can see someone who … shares experiences like you, it helps.” Christine Szaj, associate dean for administration at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, agrees. Minority students make up 13.1 percent of the law school’s enrollment. “Every good effort to recruit minority students starts with what you have and who goes to your school,” Szaj says. In addition, the groups are helpful in bringing a perspective to legal issues that sometimes aren’t represented as strongly as other viewpoints, she says. “They put on programs that are open to everyone, which may or may not focus on a legal issue that is of particular interest to those groups,” Szaj says. “The richness of a law school would be diminished if you didn’t have these student groups.”

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