A recent article here discussed the nascent boycott of U.S. News rankings by a handful of law schools. To date, thankfully, neither Arkansas law school has joined this undertaking.
Twenty (out of about 200) law schools will cease submitting data to the magazine. In response, U.S. News announced it will simply evaluate them with whatever information is publicly available.
The back story to this train wreck is critical for contextualizing this crackpot concept.
While the leftist academic monasteries that are law schools demand demographic diversity, they eschew diversity of perspective. Pigment and plumbing permutations, yes, please. Viewpoint variation, no thanks.
Exhibit A: After a conservative Yale law student used the term “trap house” in an email, the school’s diversity Stasi, while referring to the student’s political-organization affiliation as “triggering,” tried to intimidate him into signing an administration-prepared apology straight from the Soviet show-trial playbook. When he refused, administrators publicly rebuked his actions.
The student secretly recorded and courageously shared the browbeating, putting on full display Yale’s long-standing, previously shrouded antagonism towards conservatives.
In reaction to this and other public revelations of anti-conservativism at Yale, more than 14 federal judges decided they no longer will hire its graduates. That’s enormously significant.
Schools vie to have their alumni obtain these coveted positions. And lawyers landing these rare spots have a leg up in becoming law professors and obtaining important practice and policy positions.
Yale’s antipathy towards conservatives shares common cause across academia. In Arkansas, for example, Little Rock’s then-law dean emailed the entire faculty and student body bemoaning Trump’s election shortly thereafter.
If only that dean had the foresight to have recognized that leftist anti-democratic screeds might be looked askance outside the academic echo chamber. He resigned shortly after being so enlightened.
And beware investigating the fraud of race-based admissions. You don’t dare even scratch the surface of sacred set-asides without suffering sanctions. After all, affirmative action is the biggest dirty little secret in academia, and fight-club rules apply: The first rule of affirmative action is that we don’t talk about affirmative action.
Consider U.S. News rankings: Yale always ranked first. But its top spot is in jeopardy. Reputation accounts for 40 percent of the calculus. And even prior to these scarring events, Yale’s sheen was tarnishing. The federal-judge hiring blackout will only further laden Yale’s stature.
On the heels of these transformational events, sure enough, Yale initiated the U.S. News boycott. Yale’s public complaints weren’t that its rarefied reputation was dropping. Nothing so candid.
Rather, Yale claimed that heavily weighing law school admissions test (LSAT) scores and undergraduate grade-point averages hurts schools that want to admit “promising students” who couldn’t afford test-prep courses and rewards giving scholarships for high scores, not financial need.
Put aside that test-prep classes have limited effect and are free to underprivileged students. LSAT scores are a good predictor of bar passage and are even stronger indicators for minorities.
Also, never mind that Yale has a $1.2 billion endowment. Yale contends “millions of dollars of scholarship money now go to students with the highest scores, not the greatest need.”
First, these self-styled “scholarships” are almost invariably reductions in made-up, sticker-price tuitions that less than a quarter of American law students ever pay.
Second, how are lower-ranked schools magically scooping Yale in attracting top scorers in the first place? If it’s by offering a more reasonable price, maybe Yale’s $69,000 per year tuition is to blame.
I received significant need-based aid while at Columbia with an LSAT percentile not to be exceeded. My school didn’t compensate me for my LSAT score. I guess Columbia figured out a way to do it.
Yale has enough money to both pay for merit and address the entire need of all stellar applicants. But doing so would reveal Yale’s duplicity.
Yale’s real concern is that it can’t enlist sufficient minorities to meet its unsagacious, politically motivated race-dominating admissions goals without sacrificing the objective quality metrics used by U.S. News, no matter how grand Yale’s late-night-commercial price-cutting “scholarships” are.
Yale should worry. U.S. News values merit over demographics.
Consider the usefulness of U.S. News to prospective Arkansas students. Fayetteville is ranked in the second tier, covering institutions between 50-100. That’s good for a public school in a small state. Little Rock is ranked in the bottom tier, containing schools ranked roughly 150-200.
The rankings are based on several factors:
• While Little Rock punches above its weight in reputation, only three law schools not in the bottom tier enroll students with LSAT averages as low as Little Rock’s. That’s incredibly hard to overcome. Fayetteville has significantly higher LSATs and is in the second tier.
LSAT scores matter.
• Faculty salaries are important to U.S. News. They affect recruitment and enthusiasm.
Little Rock’s salary is at the bottom of reporting law schools in a national survey. The average tenured professor’s income at Little Rock is the same as that of the lowest position–assistant professor–at Fayetteville.
Incidentally, Fayetteville’s dean earns $300,000 and Little Rock’s clocks in at $240,000. Not bad for government work.
• Fayetteville has a faculty-student ratio of 1:7.8. Little Rock is 1:9.5. Classes at Little Rock routinely measure over 110 students.
• Little Rock has noticeably low post-graduate law-employment measures, another concern for U.S. News: 7.1 percent at graduation and 64.6 percent at 10 months. Fayetteville’s law-job placements are 39.3 percent at graduation and 86.6 percent at 10 months.
Certain smaller firms in the capital city wait until bar exam results are released to make job offers, which negatively affects the “at-graduation” measure for Little Rock.
Some also assert that Little Rock’s poor overall placement number–the far more salient figure–stems from a significant portion of its students not seeking law jobs after getting law degrees. I haven’t seen data supporting this dubious claim.
• Both schools’ graduates have near-identical low debt–a positive for the rankings. However, Little Rock measures higher on graduates with debt–an unfair factor, particularly where tuition isn’t evaluated–but it only accounts for 2 percent of the ranking’s score. So let’s not get too sanctimonious over this minor slight.
The rankings don’t need to be perfect. They’re simply a heuristic designed to give guidance. And they do that very well–aggregating for students difficult-to-evaluate diffuse information spread across institutions.
The claim that students can get the underlying data on their own elides the overwhelming challenge in both compiling and comparing that information. The figures discussed above come directly from U.S. News. Do you think I would’ve been able to present such a detailed comparison without that resource? Go try.
Obscuring facts and denying the considerable benefits of rankings harm potential Arkansas students’ ability to understand complicated quality measures and debases transparency norms.
As the author of the treatise on the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and an openness advocate, I could never support returning to the antiquated opacity Yale now self-servingly promotes.
Should either Arkansas law school decide not to share extant data with U.S. News, I’ll FOIA those records and forward them on. Transparency will not die in Arkansas under my watch.
This is your right to know.
Robert Steinbuch, professor of law at the Bowen Law School, is a Fulbright Scholar and author of the treatise “The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.” His views do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.
Print Headline: Rank hypocrisy rates top spot
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