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US News Weighs Request to Add Diversity Measure to Law School Rankings

Posted Apr 8, 2011 10:28 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The rankings czar for U.S. News & World Report plans further discussions on a proposal to include a diversity measure in its rankings, but he warns of several hurdles ahead.

Writing at the Morse Code blog, research director Robert Morse says U.S. News has a diversity index, but it’s not a part of the rankings because it can’t be incorporated in “a fair and meaningful way.” The index measures to what extent a law school is diverse, but it doesn’t measure diversity against a benchmark.

Morse says he will talk about feasibility of the idea with Craig Holden, a lawyer from Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith who was the catalyst behind the diversity proposal by the State Bar of California. The proposal (PDF) says diversity should be 15 percent of a school’s total score in the rankings. The bar says U.S. News could measure diversity by:

• Comparing a school’s diversity with statewide demographic data.

• Asking about diversity efforts, including whether a school participates in recruitment efforts and whether it has developed plans to increase diversity.

• Surveying diversity professionals at law schools on diversity reputation.

Morse sees lots of potential problems and issues. How should law schools in ethnically diverse states be compared with schools elsewhere? How should diversity at historically black schools be measured? Should economic diversity be considered? And is diversity relevant given the purpose of the rankings to identify the best schools academically?

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