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Affirmative action programs at New Jersey law schools conform to the model approved by the U.S. Supreme Court June 23, and deans at the institutions say they have no plans to alter policies that have helped a generation of black and Hispanic aspirants become lawyers. Like colleagues around the country, Rutgers and Seton Hall legal educators devoured the decisions in the University of Michigan cases to see whether admissions procedures that help minorities in New Jersey are constitutional. They are. “I anticipate no need to change anything,” says Rayman Solomon, dean of Rutgers Law School-Camden. Deans Stuart Deutsch at Rutgers-Newark and Patrick Hobbs at Seton Hall have the same reaction about policies that result in incoming classes whose minority representation averages about 20 percent. In her opinion for the 5-4 majority in Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that schools may use race as one of many admissions criteria for the limited purpose of creating a diverse student body. Creating a “critical mass” of minority students is acceptable, but there can be no quotas or mechanistic systems that give points for race or ethnicity to candidates, the Court said in Grutter and a companion ruling, Gratz v. Bollinger. Each applicant must be considered as an individual. O’Connor said of the system at Michigan Law School, now the acceptable model, “the law school engages in a highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant’s file, giving serious consideration to all the ways an applicant might contribute to a diverse educational environment.” The Court noted that there were statistical swings from year to year in the minority representation at Michigan Law School, which suggested as a practical matter that schools can demonstrate they have no quotas by exhibiting similar variations. Here are outlines of each New Jersey school’s admissions policies and how, according to the deans, they conform to what the Court found acceptable last week: RUTGERS-NEWARK Rutgers-Newark’s Minority Student Program is one of the best known in the country because of its three-decade longevity and the number of African-American and Hispanic students who have used it as a springboard to legal careers. On average, 22.4 percent of students in the five most recent incoming classes have been African-Americans, according to statistics provided by Dean Deutsch. A couple of years ago, Rutgers-Newark allowed students to apply on two tracks, one for those who wanted to be considered under traditional criteria, mostly test scores and undergraduate grades, and one that allowed candidates to emphasize life experience. Students on that track whose grades were less than outstanding could show that their background, perhaps the experience of overcoming disadvantages, made them deserving of a place in the class. The two-track system has been scrapped, and the current one is similar to the Michigan model. All 3,700 or so applications are reviewed by at least three readers who take into account everything in the file from grades to life experience. The goal, as in the Michigan plan, is to create a diverse student body. “We look at all the factors the Supreme Court says we can look at,” Deutsch says, and they can include broad categories including race, interesting job experiences, athletic prowess and even the oldest criteria of all: a parent’s attendance at the school years earlier. Deutsch says fluctuations in the number of minority students at the school during the past five years also fit in with the Supreme Court’s suggestion that a proper program have no quotas. Minorities made up 31 percent of the full-time student body entering in 1998, 40 percent in 1999, 41 percent in 2000, 41 percent in 2001 and 37 percent in 2002. Deutsch also says he takes no issue with the sunset provision included in last week’s decision. The Court said it expected the use of racial preferences would no longer be necessary in 25 years. Deutsch says he considers that a challenge to society to correct ills, like de facto segregation, that undermine the education of minority students and require affirmative action. RUTGERS-CAMDEN “Our program is very much like the Michigan program,” Rutgers-Camden Dean Solomon says. “We read the whole file, it’s an individualized determination, we have some notion of critical mass, it’s not a quota and we seek to create a diverse class.” While he says he anticipates no changes, the university counsel will review the decision and he expects follow-up details from the Law School Admission Council, which administers the Law School Aptitude Test and serves as an umbrella organization for law school recruiters. Rutgers-Camden doesn’t have a name for its program; it’s an integral part of the admissions policy and the minority group numbers have fluctuated, albeit at lower levels than at Rutgers-Newark. African-Americans, for example, made up 8.5 percent of the incoming class in 1988, 7.2 percent in 1999, 7.4 percent in 2000, 5.8 percent in 2001 and 5.2 percent in 2002. Solomon says the system reflects the holistic approach required by the Supreme Court. “I don’t sit down with the admissions committee and say ‘up on Puerto Ricans, down on black,’” he says. “That’s not the way the system works. We look at the pool.” Solomon says the success of the school’s minority group graduates — retired U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez is one of them — shows the importance of diversity at the school, but not everyone on the faculty is gung-ho about the reasoning behind O’Connor’s opinion. Professor Dennis Patterson suggests the Michigan case dissenters, who included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were right when they said any use of race as criteria is constitutionally unsupportable. Allowing schools to have affirmative action programs that obtain a critical mass of minority students is no different than allowing them to have quotas, Patterson says. SETON HALL Seton Hall takes a different approach from the Rutgers law schools. Each year, 25 to 30 candidates from about 200 applicants who have suffered educational disadvantage, and may not have the grades to enter the school under normal circumstances, are invited to a summer program. They take two law classes, and if they show promise, they are accepted at a rate of about 75 percent a year. It’s not designed to be a feeder for black and Latino students although “students of color do come in through the program,” Dean Hobbs says. Like the other two schools, Seton Hall has the capability to review all applications carefully, in line with the “holistic” approach required by the Michigan case, and use race as one of a vast array of criteria. As a result, African-American, Native-American, Asian and Latino students made up 18 percent of the incoming class in 2000, 22 percent in 2001 and 19 percent in 2002. African-Americans make up about 5 percent of Seton Hall’s incoming classes each year. “If we were required to be race-blind as Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas indicated in their dissents, it would have had an effect on our minority student population,” Hobbs says. Hobbs says Seton Hall could have a more classic affirmative action program like the two Rutgers schools, but it would be difficult to match those schools’ minority populations because of the price differential between Seton Hall and the state schools. The base tuition rate at Rutgers-Newark for a day student from New Jersey is $12,522. Seton Hall charges $28,200 for all students regardless of residence. “If the kids are coming from a socioeconomic background where price is going to be an important factor, we understand they are going to choose the state schools,” Hobbs says.

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