Revolutionary Worker #915, July 13, 1997
When the freshman class at two of the top public law schools in the United States begin their studies this fall, there will be almost no Black students among them. Boalt Hall, the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, is expected to enroll only one Black student in an entering class of about 270 students. At the University of Texas law school, only three Black students are expected to enroll in a freshman law school class of 500. The number of Latino entering law students at the University of Texas is also down drastically--from 42 last year to 20 this year.
The doors are being slammed in the face of Black and Latino students at these prestigious law schools--and this is a direct result of the attacks on affirmative action programs.
In 1995 the UC regents decided to ban affirmative action programs throughout the University of California system. The effects of this decision, now in plain view, are shocking and intolerable.
At UC Berkeley, only 14 Black students were accepted to the freshman class at Boalt Hall, out of a total of about 800 students accepted. Of those 14 students, not a single one plans to actually enroll. (This is due to various factors--one of them being that some people feel unwelcome at an institution where there are so few students from oppressed nationalities.) The single enrolling Black student in this year's freshman class at the Berkeley law school was admitted last year and deferred enrollment until this year. The number of Latino students at Boalt is also dropping.
The exact numbers of Black and Latino students at Boalt will not be known until the fall when classes start. But under current figures, the entering class will have only one Black and 18 Latino students--compared to 20 Black and 28 Latino students in last year's freshman class. The dean of the Berkeley law school said, "This is worse than our worst case scenario."
The figures for Black and Latino enrollment are also down for the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles--which, like Berkeley and Texas, is one of the top 20 law schools in the country. The UCLA law school will go from 19 Black and 45 Latino students in last year's entering class to 10 Black and 41 Latino students in this year's class.
And there will be far fewer Black, Latino and other oppressed nationality students in other graduate school programs in California. For example, UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business accepted less than half as many Black students for 1997 as they did in 1996, and the number of Latinos admitted dropped by a third. Overall minority enrollment at UC Berkeley will drop 30 percent in the Engineering Department and 7 percent in the School of Education. At the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, the number of applications from Black and Latino students has dropped drastically.
The University of Texas law school was blatantly and legally segregated until 1950 when a court ruled that the school had to admit Black students. At the time, the University of Texas operated a separate School of Law for Negroes, which had two students. The court ruling was the result of a lawsuit by Heman Sweatt, a Black student who challenged the university's racist "separate but equal" policy and demanded admission into the law school.
By the 1980s the University of Texas Law School trained more Black and Latino lawyers than any school in the country. It has 2,000 Mexican-American and Black alumni. One of every 11 Mexican-American lawyers in the U.S. graduated from the UT Law School.
But now, University of Texas is operating under last year's Hopwood ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Cheryl Hopwood and three other white students had filed a lawsuit against the UT Law School, claiming they were not admitted because minority students received preferential treatment in admissions. The court ruled that the university could not consider the ethnicity or race of applicants at all. The Texas Attorney General interpreted the ruling to also ban race-based scholarships.
This ruling has had an immediate effect. Under current figures, the class entering this fall at the UT Law School will only have three Black and 20 Latino students--compared to 31 Black and 42 Hispanic students in the class that just finished its first year.
And minority admissions overall are dropping at University of Texas, where Black and Latino students are already significantly under-represented. Total undergraduate applications to the University of Texas fell 13 percent this year--but applications from Black students fell 26 percent, and applications from Latino students fell 23 percent. While 32 percent of the state's 18-year-olds are Latino, only 15 percent of UT students are Latino. And while 14 percent of 18-year-olds in the state are Black, only 4 percent of UT students are Black.
The enforcement of apartheid education at some of this country's top universities is touching off outrage among students, professors and others. Marjorie Shultz, a Berkeley law professor, told the New York Times, "It's so stunning it's almost unbelievable. What do we think? The leading public university in the most diverse state and the most diverse educational system is going to just withdraw behind some siege wall and be a white institution? It's preposterous." A white law student at Berkeley was quoted as saying, "Blacks, whites and Latinos, all students are disappointed with the regents and the way the school has handled it." A Black student admitted to the University of Texas said he will not enroll because "It would be like going to a country club there." And a white student from Houston who refused to enroll at the University of Texas said, "I don't consider myself any kind of radical; I'm a very moderate person, but I pride myself on having an open mind and I felt that going to a school that's 99 percent white doesn't represent the society, and the law should represent society."
Last year, the implementation of bans on affirmative action led to militant student protests up and down the state of California and around the country. After California's anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 was passed, thousands of students shut down freeways and city streets, took over buildings and demanded equality. Now, the ugly racist reality behind the lying code words of "ending racial preferences" and "banning discrimination" is becoming even more blatant.
In the struggle over affirmative action, the question is really about what kind of society we want to live in--whether or not we want a society stamped from top to bottom by systematic discrimination against Black people and other oppressed nationalities. What does it say about the nature of society we live under in this country today, when two of the top law schools in this country have almost completely shut their doors to Black students?
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