The Whitest Law School

September 16, 2005 | 46 comments
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Despite what you might think, BYU is not the whitest law school in the country — it is not even in the list of ten whitest schools. Professor Vernellia Randall of the University of Dayton has compiled a list ranking law schools according to their whiteness. The whitest law school in the nation, according to Professor Randall, is the University of Montana. The least white law school on the list is the University of Puerto Rico. Howard comes in close as well, but has slightly more than 5 percent white students. BYU comes in at number 40, which almost exactly matches its ranking (#35) in the U.S. New listing. Interestinly, it is less white than the University of Utah (#29) or the University of Idaho (#4), two other schools where one might expect large numbers of Mormons (although perhaps not at Idaho, which is in the Gentile panhandle of the state, rather than in the Mormon heartland of the southeast). I’ve no idea what significance, if any, these listings have, but given legal academia’s obsession with rankings of one kind or another, I thought it interesting.

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46 Responses to The Whitest Law School

  1. brayden on September 16, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    How white do you have to be to count as white?

  2. lyle on September 16, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    Nate, she obviously missed the glaring whiteness of the law school building. 100% white.

  3. Sarah on September 16, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    Interesting that Whittier and USC are at the absolute bottom of the list (excluding two US law schools in the territory of Puerto Rico and on the island of Hawaii.) My mom’s school (Cooley) is near the bottom, too. Also interesting that 156 schools are “more white” than the average, and only 28 are “less white” than the average (presumably thanks in large part to those 5 traditionally black schools that are less than 20% “white.”

    As to methodology, it looks like they looked at survey results and compared self-identifying “white/caucasian” to all other cateogories.

  4. Matt Hemmert on September 16, 2005 at 1:41 pm

    Having just survived immersion and subsequent emergence from the fire of legal education, I’d like to say that Willamette University College of Law (Salem, OR) is “whiter” than the high school I attended in Utah County. Perhaps the lack of color is due to the fact it is ancillary to a small liberal arts school. In my graduating class of 125 or so, there were three Chinese students, two or three Hispanic students, two American Indian students, and two Hawaiian students. Of course, this is all from memory, which may or may not be fully recovered from the July bar exam. Interesting, however, was the number or LDS students: I would safely estimate it is around 15%. The J. Ruben Clark Society is thriving at the school and is the largest law organization there. When I was a 1L, the JRC was first officially recognized, and even drew the Church’s legal council, Brother Atkins, as a speaker. I am rambling and digressing… As for color and law schools, BYU Law seems to attract a very diverse crowd in gender and race, and perhaps the institution intentionally seeks diversity in its students (my brother is a 2L and hints at such). Anywho…

  5. a random John on September 16, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Matt,

    You’ve guessed that there were maybe 10 non-white students in your class of 125 at Willamette. I would guess that there are people that self-identify as Hispanic that you would never guess would do so. In any case, what you report from memory really isn’t that far off from BYU’s percentage of 88% white. In any case, you are probably have a lower percentage of black students at BYU than white students at Howard, which exemplifies just how out of place one might feel at BYU if not white.

  6. Matt Hemmert on September 16, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    John,

    You have a valid point. Outward appearances, or immutable characteristics, themselves do not a race-designation make.

    Forgive the subtle humor in the following, but as a recipient of an organ transplant from a Hispanic donor, I wonder if I could consider myself non-white…? Any legal interpretation from the Times & Seasons hive?

  7. GeorgeD on September 16, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    This is a very sick ranking. Someday we’ll get to MLK’s vision that looks beyond the color of skin.

  8. Ivan Wolfe on September 16, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    Matt H. –

    I don’t go to law school, but I’m 1/32 Native American. If there are 31 others like me, what happens?

  9. Gavin McGraw on September 16, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    I agree with what John implies, which is that self-reporting can skew the numbers.

    Although I am of Scots-Irish descent, with pastey skin and gorgeous red hair, I was born (albeit to American parents) in the Republic of South Africa, thus making me technically at least, more “African-American” than any African-American I know (or that most people know for that matter). I used to fill in that bubble on standardized tests because I thought it was cool. I would have done so for college apps too, if not for the fear of being lynched if the NAACP found out.

    More to the point, I would also often mark “prefer not to respond” (including recent grad school apps) in a vain effort to counteract Affirmative Action. Who knows what good it did, if any. My point is that people “of color” (even marginally so) are probably more likely to respond that way since our system favors them. Those of us who can only be described as white may not fess up as readily.

    And another thing, how come we have to be labelled “white” and not “European American”, “Melanin-challenged”, “Heliophobic” or some other euphemistic PC designation? Despite including at least as many ethnic groups as other skin-colors, we all have to be just “white”.
    Arrrr, Matey’s, mae bloode boils wi’ rrrage!

  10. Gavin McGraw on September 16, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    In fact, since Ms. Randall determines the ‘whiteness’ of a school by adding the ‘white’ and ‘unknown’ responses, she seems to be assuming that anyone who won’t reveal their race must be white (presumably because any self-respecting ‘ethnic’ person would always declare their race with pride, and take advantage of Affirmative Action).

  11. a random John on September 16, 2005 at 4:07 pm

    Gavin,

    You are missing the fact that affirmative action actually hurts some minorities at certain schools. There are schools in where the number of Asians is lower than it would otherwise be because of affirmative action. As you indicate, this is not a simple issue.

  12. Susan M on September 16, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    I have nephews that are part white, part Mexican, part Native American, part black, and part Japanese. All they need is some middle Eastern and they’d have all their bases covered.

    I have no idea what they check on forms (or what their mom checks for them), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s “unknown.” (Do these forms allow multiple answers?)

  13. Gavin McGraw on September 16, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    John,
    No it’s not simple, much as I’d like to make it so. On the other hand, do asians even need Affirmative Action? It seems to me that they are not favored precisely because they don’t. Asian-Americans to a great extent (at least to my understanding) are in the same boat as whites. Affirmative Action was not created with Asians in mind, or even, for that matter, all minorities (this may be a fireball, but aren’t Jews as much a race as a religion?).

    I don’t know to what extent Asians report themselves acurately or not.
    The designation ‘Asian’ is also just about as broad a blanket term as ‘White’ is, BTW. There is probably some feeling in the Asian-American community of being hurt by Affirmative Action, just as there is among European-Americans. We just don’t dare speak up, though.

  14. Ivan Wolfe on September 16, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    Gavin –

    do asians even need Affirmative Action? It seems to me that they are not favored precisely because they don’t.

    that’s my one big gripe about Affirmative action – simplified racial grouping based on little more than vague geography or barely related cultures.

    Asains come from many backgrounds: those from Japanese, Korean and Chinese backgrounds generally are outperforming whites, so do not “need” Affirmative Action.

    But those with Laotions, Cambodians and Hmong backgrounds are often below African-Americans on nearly every factor (wages earned, insurance, job opportunities) and so Affirmative action actively hurts their progress by limiting Asians in favor of groups like Hispanics/Lationos and Blacks (because, realtively speaking, they have it much better than the Laotions, Cambodians and Hmong).

  15. manaen on September 16, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    I used to check “Native American” on the forms because I’m a native of America. That ended when I learned that the law says only Lamanites and their close cousins can be Native Americans. I tried arguing that many of them are born on reservations, which they do not consider part of America, so they couldn’t be Native Americans but that I am one. I was told that only someone belonging to one of the inidigenous peoples can be a Native American, regardless of the whether that person’s nativity occured in America. I explained that my family’s been here 400+ years so we are indigenous. You know how that went…

    I didn’t even get to the parts about how their “Native Americans” only came here a little earlier as Jaredites and Lehi-ites or that because Eden was in America that we all are indigenous people now returned home.

  16. Gavin McGraw on September 16, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    Ivan you’re right. That’s kind of what I was getting at by saying that ‘Asian’ is a blanket term. Russians could be considered Asians too.

  17. maria on September 16, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    I attended a lecture that Professor Randall gave on this topic just last week. The lecture ended dramatically–she broke down into near-hysterical sobs as she described her view that we live in a de facto South Africa with little hope for future change. She even said that her hopelessness about the future for non-whites in our country had nearly driven her to suicide.

  18. Matt Hemmert on September 16, 2005 at 10:34 pm

    I think it a bit dramatic to implode with hopelessness when discussing race relations and/or racial distribution in higher education/professions in a future context. I recognize the existance of a “white privilege,” the extent of which I decline to debate; however, I do not believe it a burden that I as a white Anglo should automatically confess and carry throughout my life. The “problem” is, as I see it, two-fold: (1) the cause is often championed hysterically by persons who, in their hysteria, lead the discussion in a way that turns off many who would gladly participate in a national discussion; and (2) the denial of “white privilege” by white America.

    I don’t think that quota filling to represent national racial percentages is the answer either; the approach is too simplistic and, in fact, fosters resentment. The summer after my 1L year, I was in the final interview process for an intern position with the state water authority. I didn’t get the position, and upon further inquiry, was told that the funding for the position mandated that if two persons of equal credentials were being considered, preference should be given to promote racial diversity. In other words, I didn’t get the position because I was white. Was I bitter? Sure I was. In the long run, I hold no bad feelings. However, being the “victim” of a policy based on race did drive me to become more involved in the issue of racial preference and its ugly associate, racial prejudice.

    Just what is the answer? Who knows. It is clear that Affirmative Action programs do not do anyone any favors. I don’t have any answers; but I don’t share the hopelessness described by Maria.

  19. Prudence McPrude on September 17, 2005 at 3:24 am

    The Lord’s University may not have the whitest law school, but it surely must have the most delightsome one, and that’s just as important, if not more so.

  20. Soyde River on September 17, 2005 at 4:53 am

    You mean that Professor Randall thinks we live in a de facto South Africa where a black will be our President? Is that what drove her to tears? Or was it a hissy fit?

  21. lyle on September 17, 2005 at 9:19 am

    Maria: Your story proves Matt’s point and only further questions the study’s findings and relevance. Frankly, I don’t buy Senators crying over partisan sniping or crit/race theorists who refuse to live in the today and make MLK’s vision a reality today.

  22. Gavin McGraw on September 17, 2005 at 9:26 am

    I just read a book about the history of the Scots and their influence on western civilization. There is some degree of parallel in the racial/social predjudice that went on between the English and Scots (and even the Lowland Scots versus the Highland Gaels). The Irish had it even worse, but that’s a different book.

    So did they whine and complain about discrimination and demand reverse discrimination in recompense? No. They sucked it up and eventually beat the English at their own game, coming to dominant 18th-century thought and politics, and especially the 19th-century Imperial and Industrial developments. They took it for granted that life offers no shortcuts and that the only road to success is a rocky one.

    Oh yes, the Irish and Scots were, at various times, also slaves.

  23. Seth Rogers on September 17, 2005 at 9:48 am

    Sounds like an ideologue having a “hissy fit” to me. I am singularly unimpressed with people who emotionally “bear testimony” to try and get people to agree with them. Some people need to be reminded that their own pet issues aren’t the only problems in the world.

  24. John Mansfield on September 17, 2005 at 10:20 am

    I didn’t attend the whitest law school, but I did study in the Whiting School of Engineering.

  25. Brett on September 17, 2005 at 10:48 am

    As one who is preparing to enter law school, I’ve had moments of bitterness about Affimative Action. I don’t understand why someone who has the same background as me could get picked over me or get scholarships simply because of their skin color. Or worse yet, a poor white student being looked over for a well off african american simply to fill a race quota. Schools need to get rid of this race base bit and start looking at economic factors when deterning who to give admission preferences to.

  26. Mike on September 17, 2005 at 10:59 am

    Scots were slaves? I’m about half Scottish 200 years back.

    Like this big mean senior on the high school football team made me into his “slave” when I was a sophomore and he made me run his errands and he threw me in the canal a few times, and I ran away from him more than once, but that doesn’t count does it?

    That is certainly great news for me living here in Georgia where being descended from slaves seems to be a real feather in your cap.

  27. Gavin McGraw on September 17, 2005 at 11:54 am

    Mike,
    I certainly don’t bring it up in mixed company, but yes. This was mostly back around the Roman occupation of Britain. The pagan Scots and Irish were also constantly enslaving each other, so one the accomplishments of St. Patrick (Patricius-a romanized Briton who spent his youth as a slave in Ireland) was to stop slavery in the British Isles. There was also a great deal of indentured servitude in the early colonization of America, and most of them were Scots and Irish. They usually earned their freedom at some point, and became valuable as skilled and semi-skilled laborers, as did the later Scots immigratants (most Scots had a trade other than farming, and most could read and write english, though the Irish immigrants weren’t quite as well trained, in addition to being Catholic).

    None of this goes over well with descendants of African slaves, though.

    My point still holds about the differences in attitude following slavery, though. Celtic peoples, while they have always resisted foreign domination, have never really asked for handouts.

    (Cue: Twelve Drummonds drumming, eleven flags-a-waving, ten pipers piping, and a Celto-centric hi-i-sto-ry!)

  28. Geoff B on September 17, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    I’d just like to say how refreshing it has been to read this thread. It’s been nice to see that very few commenters are toeing the PC line. By the way, I am one-quarter Mexican-American, and my daughters are five-eighths Latina, yet I would rue the day they get into a law school because of their ethnicity and not because of their ability.

  29. Floyd the Wonderdog on September 19, 2005 at 9:32 am

    I was denied a job just after my mission because the company had a quota to fill. It didn’t matter that I was over qualified. Bitter? No way! If I had gotten that job I would probably not finished college.

    I had an ancestor who lost everything and almost lost his life because he was an abolitionist. The mob had put a noose around his neck when his sons rode up armed. A deal was struck and the family was allowed to leave with the clothes on their backs. They lost their ranch and all their possesions. I think I’ve got good reason to refuse to accept the white guilt that some would like to force on me because of my skin color.

    At work, I was accused of discrimination and reverse discrimination in the same week. I was supervising a plant of union workers and actually requiring that they show up to work. The shop steward laughed and told the accusers that I was the least bigotted person he had ever met. I admitted that my grandmother’s family had come here from Mexico. I just didn’t tell them that they were Danish Mormon polygamists.

    I will admit that there are bigots out there. Some of them are not so subtile. But when we face a set back it is somewhat soothing to blame something or someone other than our lack of ability. Ususally office politics doesn’t care about race, religion, gender, or other dividers. It’s all about winning the telestial game.

  30. GreenEggz on September 19, 2005 at 10:05 am

    No one has mentioned this yet: because affirmative action puts students in more difficult schools than they would otherwise qualify for, they get lower grades and drop out more often than if they were in schools more matched to their abilities. In those cases, affirmative action actually lowers college graduation rates among the minorities they are professing to help.

    Any solutions to get more minorities into college first needs to address high school graduation rates and high school academic performance. The high school graduation rates of inner-city minorities is atrocious. The high school graduation rate is also under-reported by playing with the numbers. In my city, they under-report by counting the number of drop-outs and graduates among those who start 10th grade, which is the definition of “high school”. But they leave out all those who drop out prior to 10th grade.

    If colleges want more minorities to attend, then something has to be done about minority high school graduation rates, and also preparing those high schoolers to legitimately qualify for the best schools.

  31. Doug on September 19, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    The odd thing is that I never would have guessed that BYU Law was one of the “whiter” schools.

    I lived in Utah Valley for many years, I read a variety of newspapers everyday, I consider myself reasonably intelligent but somehow I miss out on the conventional wisdom that everyone else seems to have.

  32. Randy B. on September 19, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    Actually, Doug, when I was applying to law schools back in the early 90s, there was another ranking in which BYU’s law school was in the top 10 in “whiteness.” If I remember correctly (and it was a long time ago that I looked), I believe the school also had one of the lowest percentages of women. Anyone know how BYU ranks in that category today?

    In any event, I’d be curious to know whether the law school’s admission criteria has changed to address this issue over the past decade.

  33. Randy B. on September 19, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    Just noticed that USNWR also has a ranking for diversity. BYU fares even better here, coming in tied for 61st from the lowest score. (Sorry, but I’m too lazy to count the other direction.)

    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/law/brief/lawdiv_brief.php

  34. Randy B. on September 19, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    I played around on the USNWR website a bit. Turns out that out of the top 100 law schools, only 3 (at least by my count) admit fewer women than BYU. (One of those three schools, by the way, is the University of Utah.) When all law schools are considered, that number jumps to 8.

    Here is the top 10 (assuming again that I didn’t miss anything):

    1. 35%: Mississippi
    2. 36%: Southern Illinois – Carbondale
    3. 36.8%: U. of Utah
    4. 36.9%: George Mason
    5. 36.9%: U. of Alabama – Tuscaloosa
    6. 37.5%: U. of Tulsa
    7. 37.9: Samford
    8. 38.5%: U. of Akron
    9. 38.7: BYU
    10. 39.3: U. of Missouri – Columbia

    Seems a bit odd that both of Utah’s law schools would make this list.

  35. a random John on September 20, 2005 at 1:03 am

    Geoff,

    When you applied to undergrad did withhold your ethnicity

  36. a random John on September 20, 2005 at 1:04 am

    That last comment was intended to be a question. As in:

    Geoff,

    When you applied to undergrad did withhold your ethnicity? Why?

  37. maria on September 20, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    Gavin,

    How long ago were the Scots/Irish slaves? For how many centuries were they enslaved? How long did it take them to transition from their oppressed-state to their fully-equal state? Were there any visible appearance difference between Scots and the Irish (i.e. could an Irish man pass for a Scottish man by appearance)? Was the discrimination/unjust treatment of either group ever memoralized in a constitution of the land?

    Maybe I just don’t know enough about this particular region’s history…but I’m struggling to see how the discussion of the infighting between two groups of caucasian peoples is relevant to a discuss of black-white relations in the U.S. today. I’m not trying to be snarky…I may be missing your point here and would appreciate it if you would clarify.

  38. maria on September 20, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    all–

    While I thought Professor Randall’s emotional outburst detracted from her message and was inappropriate for the forum in which she was speaking, I actually felt a lot of compassion for her. I didn’t feel like she was throwing a hissy fit–I actually felt she was being quite sincere in her emotions. I wonder if any of you have ever felt so upset about something in your life that it has driven you to feel despondent, depressed, suicidal, etc. Seems kind of a natural thing to have happen…at least at some point in every person’s life.

    I promise I’m not trying to threadjack (probably no one is reading this post by now anyway–Howard Stern seems to be the hot topic) but when Professor Randall was speaking I could really empathize with how she was feeling. While I don’t necessarily feel the same level of desperation for race-based issues, I have, at times, felt similarly about certain gender issues in the Church. Sometimes I just feel so sad, so hopeless, like nothing will ever change and what’s the point of even trying. Feeling so unempowered, effectively disenfranchised, is something I could totally relate to Professor Randall about. I hope none of you think I am throwing a hissy fit and whining or complaining just to complain. Rather, like Prof. Randall, I’m just trying to express where I’m coming from, so that greater understanding can be achieved.

  39. Geoff B on September 20, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    A random John, (#s 35 and 36), the answer is yes. I always withhold my ethnicity and answer “Not applicable” or “other” on such surveys or applications. If forced to respond, I would have to say “anglo” or “caucasion,” given that I am mostly that ethnicity.

  40. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 20, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    Well, my family came to the United States with John Marsh, who was a bond servant.

    My mother’s family came to the states with her father and mother, both of whom were born in “Asia Minor,” both who are buried in Greece, both who were evicted in the ethnic cleansing of Turkey and both of whom, when they were born, were born at a time of forced levies for slave status. Those of their age cohort included those taken as slaves.

    Something that amazed me in law school was to discover that those of Greek extraction were less likely to go to law school (at that time) than Blacks or Hispanics, and were on the original Planned Parenthood lists for being appropriate targets for eugenics and removal from the gene pool. At that time, those from India also were recruited by the Justice Department under affirmative action (nothing like a Brahmin receiving affirmative action).

    I grew up in trailer parks, neither parent graduated from college, though, I’m not the usual from that background. After all, I have blond Hellenic heritage and … well, I’m not sure.

    I’m still not certain how I feel.

    Though part of that was an eight hour mediation session in an office that overlooked Jessica’s favorite place to go in Fort Worth (we would go to the zoo and she loved the train ride). If the mediator was so good I’d never return to his office again.

  41. Gavin McGraw on September 21, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Maria,
    I am perhaps not the most informed on these topics, but I will respond the best I can.

    “How long ago were the Scots/Irish slaves?”
    About 1500 years ago, and not wholesale as a people (but then, neither were the Africans). There was simply a constant state of tribes raiding each other, as well as the Romans raiding them, taking captives who were shipped off to various places to serve as slaves. This is essentially how it worked in Africa as well. Even after Britain abolished its slave trade in 1807 (and freed its own slaves in 1833), there was still an active black market slave trade among the Arabs and (gasp!) the Africans themselves, capturing those from other tribes to sell for profit. Fairly similar?
    The main difference here is that the African trade was much more recent.

    “For how many centuries were they enslaved?”
    Before it was stopped by Patrick in the 5th century, it had gone on as far back as anybody can count.

    “How long did it take them to transition from their oppressed-state to their fully-equal state?”
    If you ask an Irishman, the jury is still out on whether there is a fully equal state.

    “Were there any visible appearance difference between Scots and the Irish (i.e. could an Irish man pass for a Scottish man by appearance)?”
    Your point here, I think, is that they all had fair skin. True enough, but there were distinct differences in dress, as well as a major language barrier. Doesn’t sound like much, but I don’t think it would have been hard to spot them in a lineup. This is speculation, though.

    “Was the discrimination/unjust treatment of either group ever memoralized in a constitution of the land?”
    Um, yeah. Anti-Catholic laws were on the books in England (read: Ireland as well) until this century, and if Belfast is any indication, these were/are potent enough to matter. Some Highland clans were forbidden to use their surnames, and Tartans and weapons were banned in Scotland for over a hundred years.

    “…I?m struggling to see how the discussion of the infighting between two groups of caucasian peoples is relevant to a discuss of black-white relations in the U.S. today.”
    I wouldn’t exactly call it infighting just because all parties were “white”. If you look at current African affairs, it is hardly a model of unity and peace, and this was equally true in the times of slavery. African peoples are just as diverse from each other as I am from them. I can’t really tell them apart, but an African can tell a Kenyan from a Somalian from a Zulu from a Bantu, from a Berber, etc.

    This is all beside my main point, which is:
    African-Americans as a culture can hardly claim a monopoly on suffering and discrimination in the world (even recently), yet the pigmentation issue seems to let them do so, and maintain an entitlement mentality which ultimately hurts themselves most, though many are loathe to see it.

  42. Gavin McGraw on September 21, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    I’ve made this comment four times, and it has gotten lost every time!! arrgg

  43. Gavin McGraw on September 21, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    “…I’m struggling to see how the discussion of the infighting between two groups of caucasian peoples is relevant to a discuss of black-white relations in the U.S. today.”
    I wouldn’t really call it infighting just because all parties were “white”. White peoples consist of many ethnicities, and there has always been friction between them.

  44. Kaimi on September 22, 2005 at 1:23 am

    Gavin,

    Our filter appears to have gone nuts and flagged about 20 of your comments as spam. Investigating. . .

  45. Kaimi on September 22, 2005 at 1:32 am

    Found the problem. A while ago, we got a bunch of spam for the drug “Soma” and it was added to the moderation list. This means that the filter thought that your reference to Somalia was spam.

    I’ve removed that term from the filter, inserted your entire original flagged comment, and deleted the duplicate sections. Sorry about the inconvenience. (We generally like our filter — it catches literally hundreds of spam comments per day, which otherwise would make the board unreadable — but it does have its shortcomings).

  46. Gavin McGraw on September 22, 2005 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks a buhundle, Kaimi. Needless to say I spent the better part of my free time yesterday trying to finish my post.