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The Supreme Court’s affirmative action decisions will require changes at few U.S. law schools, a survey indicates. Officials at most of 25 schools contacted said that they will continue using affirmative action confidently and are conforming with the court’s ruling. The court approved the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race as a factor to achieve diversity in admissions. Grutter v. Bollinger, No. 02-241. “For the first time we have a specific law school plan that we know passes constitutional muster,” said Carl Monk, executive director of the Association of American Law Schools in Washington. Administrators from schools including the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign, Ill; Rutgers School of Law in Newark, N.J.; and Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia said they have considered race among admission criteria for years. Some schools will change practices, notably in Texas, guided since 1996 by the decision in Hopwood v. Texas, nos. 94-50569 and 94-50664. In Hopwood, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that race could not be used as a factor for admissions. The University of Texas, including its law school in Austin, has announced it is revamping its admissions plan to include race as a factor. The private Southern Methodist University in Dallas will also begin to consider race in admissions, Dean John Attanasio said. Not all state schools have the right to use race. Laws in California, Washington and Florida ban affirmative action in public university admissions. In Grutter, the Supreme Court ruled that race as an admissions factor is constitutional, because having a diverse campus exposes students to a variety of people, ideas and cultures, which are all important in creating a more understanding society, and therefore represent a compelling state interest. A second decision disallowed a plan used by the University of Michigan undergraduate admissions program that gave extra points to minority students on a point system. Such a system unconstitutionally made race a decisive factor, rather than one of many factors, the court ruled. Gratz v. Bollinger, No. 02-516. Among law deans there is a general sense of relief over the court’s rulings, said Robert Reinstein, dean at Temple University’s law school. The officials typically described race as one of several factors that enters into the selection process. “Just checking a box does not make you diverse,” said Tamara Martinez-Anderson, assistant dean and director of admissions at Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Wash. The dean of the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., said applicants’ college grades and law school admission test scores are of greatest importance, but race can tip the scales. The dean, Darby Dickerson, said that if she was reading the applications of two identical male students, one white and one African-American, with grades and test scores lower than average, she would admit the African-American. “I want a diverse student body here,” the dean said. At the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, Dean Tom Galligan said economic hardship and racial diversity are two important factors when considering an applicant because having students of varying backgrounds contributes to the school community. “We’re striving for diversity in all its aspects,” said Galligan. Among the schools polled, the size of the minority populations ranged from 5.1 percent at the University of Maine in Portland to 36.7 percent at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., to 88.6 percent for Washington’s Howard University School of Law, a school that is historically predominantly African-American.

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