The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Civil Rights Groups Behind Law School Diversity Standard
Feature Story by Tyler Lewis - 4/10/2006Civil rights groups are putting their support behind the American Bar Association's (ABA) revision of its diversity standard as anti-affirmative action groups work to have the ABA's accreditation powers revoked.
On February 11, the ABA's accrediting arm, Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, proposed changes to update its Equal Opportunity and Diversity Standard 211 to make it consistent with the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld diversity as a compelling state interest. The proposed changes were submitted to the Department of Education as part of the agency's regular review of its accrediting agencies.
The standard requires law schools to demonstrate the concrete steps they are taking to ensure a diverse student body and workforce.
As part of its mission, the ABA must regularly review and update its standards for legal education. Standard 211 had not been updated in 15 years.
Three anti-affirmative action groups, the Center for Equal Opportunity, Center for Individual Rights and the National Association of Scholars claim that the new standard is "discriminatory" and "politically correct." Earlier this month, the three groups sent letters to the Department of Education urging the agency to revoke the ABA's power to accredit law schools unless the ABA withdraws their proposed changes to the standard.
"The strident arguments lodged by anti-diversity and anti-equal opportunity/affirmative action organizations are without merit and demean the entire accreditation and approval process," said the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) in a March 28 letter to the Department of Education signed by 24 national civil rights organizations.
"The ABA has a long, well-respected tradition of accrediting law schools," said Wade Henderson, executive director of LCCR. "The proposed changes are modest and entirely consistent with Grutter."
The ABA's proposed changes to strengthen its commitment to diversity come at a time when minority enrollment at the nation's law schools is falling. African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, but they only accounted for 6.8 percent of law students in 2004, according to the ABA.
Last fall, the number of law school applications from African Americans fell 8.2 percent. That percentage is nearly twice the decline in all applications, according to the Law School Admission Council.
And in states like Florida, where, in 1999, Governor Jeb Bush banned by executive order affirmative action in government employment, contracting, and education, black enrollment is dropping by as much as a third (at Florida State University's College of Law) and half (at University of Florida's Levin College of Law).
The Department of Education will be reviewing comments submitted as part of its regular review of its accrediting agencies in preparation for its June meeting. The ABA House of Delegates is expected to vote on the proposed changes to the standard later this summer.