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At the end of his junior year a couple of months ago at a small liberal arts college in Ohio, Dan T. Myers wrote to The New York Times, expressing concern for his future. Dan stated that “my grades are good and I hope to do well on the LSAT, but even if I do, I will have trouble getting accepted to the top universities. Why? I am a white man, a victim of reverse discrimination.” Poor Dan. He has not even graduated college, has not taken the LSAT, has not applied to law school, but he has already self-defined himself as a member of that great victim class — those who had the bad luck to be born white men, with no opportunity and no hope of rising above their caste. They are white men, forever subjugated to the burden of reverse discrimination. Dan — please, for your own sake, come back to the real world. You are a victim only of your own self-delusion. You have fallen for the myth of “reverse discrimination,” a false god of demagogues, whose success depends on blaming some group other than themselves. You can overcome this, Dan! First, you have to look at the numbers. As someone said to me many years ago, when I was about your age, numbers don’t lie, people do. Here’s what the numbers will show you. Law schools are competitive, and the top law schools are ridiculously competitive. If your grades are good and you do well on the LSAT, you are correct in assuming that you will not get into a top law school, because you will be competing with students of all colors who have excellent grades and excellent LSAT scores. Here’s how crazy it gets — if you are applying to the elite law schools, like Yale and Harvard, and your grades and LSAT scores are in the top 5 percent, you still may not get in, since there are more people with exceptional records than there are slots. By the way, it may not be fair, but a good record at a small liberal arts school will not be viewed the same as a good record at Stanford or Chicago or Amherst. Just as you consider some law schools to be better than others, so do law schools consider some undergraduate programs to be better than others. I don’t know what you mean by “the top universities,” Dan, but let me tell you how it works at Yale Law School. The admissions office gets thousands of applications for a class of 180. Less than 1,000 of these get read by faculty members. Each of us reads the files of 50 applicants, and all of them have exceptional credentials. Good is not good enough. If it were up to me, I would accept about 40 of my 50 files, but, based on the scoring system, I can give the top grade to approximately 20 and, of these, only a few will be offered spots. I can’t speak for others, but I do believe in diversity. Let me explain what that means, since you seem to think it means that white men are disadvantaged. That’s not what it means, although diversity does mean that white men from privileged backgrounds now have to earn their admission, which was not always the case, and that women and people of color and people with interesting backgrounds now get to compete on equal footing. Since the grades and LSAT scores are so similar, most of us look at other things, like essays and extra-curricular activities and jobs. When all of this is done, the largest group is white men. My law school class, way back in 1972, was 80 percent men and 20 percent women. Almost all of us were white. A study showed that the women’s grades and LSAT scores were, as a group, substantially higher than those of the men. It sure looked as though there was a quota limiting women to 20 percent of the class. Once the barriers were lifted, the numbers of women increased. The past discrimination against people of color was worse and it will be a long time before we make up for those injustices. Based on your letter, I assume you think that it is unfair for you and your generation of white men to pay the price for the injustices perpetrated by others. That’s not what’s happening. The system is fairer than it has ever been. The Supreme Court has ruled that there is a compelling state interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from diversity. That means that qualified women and minorities will be admitted into law schools in increased numbers, but that there will be plenty of spaces for white men. It’s a fair system and the numbers prove it. Robert Solomon is a professor of law at Yale University.

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