LSAT Advertises "Equity," Promotes Discrimination

University Testing

Stung by charges that the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) discriminates against African-American, Latino, Native American, and new-Asian immigrant applicants, the exam’s creator, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) has released a new workbook encouraging its member institutions to promote diversity. The 65-page guide lays out steps for evaluating a law school’s current process for previewing applicants and offers several alternative models for admissions decision-making, such as quantifying non-academic factors including socioeconomic status, work experience, and community leadership, so they can be compared with test scores and grades.


Though it lacks any enforcement mechanism, the document does make some surprising admissions such as, “The LSAT is often overrelied on or used improperly relative to its appropriate role in admissions.” And it provides a strong rebuttal to those who imply that test scores equal “merit” noting, “Opponents of affirmative action tend to view test scores as the sole or predominant measure to be used in the admissions process. They have misused the LSAT most egregiously because their litigation theory clearly assumes that one who achieved a higher score on the LSAT is presumptively entitled to admission over one who receives a lower score. If taken to their logical conclusion, the attacks on affirmative action suggest that schools have no or only limited discretion in selecting law students, and must admit them strictly on the score achieved on the LSAT.”


The workbook also includes a full list of research reports published by LSAC and reprints the group’s “Cautionary Policies Concerning LSAT Scores and Related Services,” which argues for “wise and equitable treatment of all applicants.”


Nonetheless, barely a month after the publication of the report on proper LSAT test-use, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the LSAC for denying four physically disabled applicants extra time on the test. The federal lawsuit alleges that the LSAC’s actions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee explained, “The failure to make reasonable modifications in testing practices and procedures penalizes disabled persons. It closes the gateways to professional opportunities.” Despite the high-sounding rhetoric of its publication, the LSAC failed to explain its procedures for obtaining additional time and refused to negotiate a voluntary settlement with the applicants.


On the heels of the Justice Department action, several individual test-takers have also brought suit against the LSAC seeking extra time on the LSAT. One plaintiff sent form letters and emails to lists of the nation’s wealthiest individuals seeking help to pursue her case. Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple Computer, responded with a pledge of betweem $15,000 and $20,000.


These actions could provide precedent-setting guidance for legal challenges to the LSAT, in specific, and use of the ADA, in general.


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