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February 16, 2006

Press Contact:
Jodi Bart, UT Law Communications, (512) 232-1408.

UT Law School at Head of Diversity Curve

American Bar Association accreditation rules place premium on multiracial recruiting

By Ryan McNitzky
The Daily Texan, February 16, 2006

The UT School of Law is ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting a diversity standard that could be approved by the American Bar Association.

The accrediting arm of the ABA revised its standards Saturday, adding a portion that requires law schools to show through "concrete action" that they are committed to having a racially and ethnically diverse student body, faculty and staff.

The UT School of Law implemented a race-conscious policy for admissions in fall 2005 after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case, which upheld the constitutionality of race consideration in the admission process, said law school Interim Dean Steven Goode. But the school has always looked to recruit students with various backgrounds, said Monica Ingram, assistant dean of admissions at the law school.

"We have very aggressive recruiting efforts through the work of the admissions office and President Powers," Goode said. "We send people to recruit throughout the country for not only the best law students, but for minority students."

The revision of admissions standards was approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and will now be submitted for consideration by the ABA's House of Delegates. The new standard will not go into effect unless the ABA House of Delegates approves it at an annual meeting in August, according to an ABA press release.

If approved, the title of the standard would change from "Equal Opportunity" to "Equal Opportunity and Diversity," according to the press release.

The revision is designed to create a stronger commitment to diversity from law schools around the country, including states that do not allow race to be considered in the admissions process, such as California and Washington, Goode said. However, it will not affect the UT School of Law, he said.

More than 30 percent of the fall 2005 entering class at the UT School of Law was made up of minorities, Goode said.

The UT law school has institutes at UT-El Paso, UT-Pan American, UT-San Antonio and Prairie View A&M University that help prepare students for law school through specialized writing instructors and on-site LSAT preparation, Ingram said.

"We have long taken an affirmative stance and actively recruit students from diverse backgrounds, including ethnic and racial minorities," Ingram said.

For the past five years, the UT School of Law has implemented a program offering admission to at least 15 students each year who are either attending or have graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas A&M International University in Laredo, UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American, Ingram said.

"We have been fortunate each year to meet or exceed those offers," Ingram said. "They have matured to become great students and great leaders."

The UT School of Law has also actively recruited at several historically black colleges such as Florida A&M University, Howard University, Tennessee State University, Southern University and Hampton University, Ingram said.

"We do our best to get to those places at least once a year," Ingram said.

The UT law school is taking the appropriate measures to become an ethnically and racially diverse institution, but it can't get complacent, said Mamta Accapadi, assistant director of the UT Multicultural Information Center.

"UT is on the right track, but there's always more we can do," Accapadi said. "Diversity just in existence doesn't accomplish anything. We need to make diversity a standard of excellence for everything in the law school."

True diversity is more than just an admissions statistic, it is the interaction of ethnically different students and faculty, Accapadi said.

"To consider diversity from a philosophic standpoint - that's exciting," Accapadi said. "It will open the doors for the law school to look for even more creative ways to be the flagship law school of the state."

Related Links:
Commitment to Diversity: http://www.utexas.edu/law/depts/admissions/studentlife/diversity.html
UT Law Ranked #1 Law School for Hispanics: http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2004/090704_hispanicbusiness.html