Law School Deans Chastise Student Body as Too White

Study claims some American law schools are 'inappropriately white'

Black Lives Matter protesters at Case Western Reserve University / AFP via Getty Images
March 10, 2021

The deans of an Ohio law school chastised their students for being too white after the release of a study ranking "the whitest law schools in America," emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show.

Two deans at Case Western Reserve University Law School emailed students Tuesday to alert them of "The Whitest Law Schools in America 2021," a study that rates schools based on how "inappropriately white" their student bodies are. Although Case Western's law school ranked 144 out of 200, making it the second least-white law school in the state of Ohio, deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf told students they should not be satisfied.

"First, we should not be satisfied with the diversity of our student body, even on the measures used in this study," Berg and Scharf said. "It does not mean we have an equitable number of students who identify as Black, Native American, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or other under-represented groups."

The percentage of minority students in the school's first-year law classes, however, exceeded the percentage of nationwide minority applicants by 13 percent. Case Western has increased the percentage of first-year law students "who do not identify as white" by 11 percent since 2004, the deans said in the email.

The Whitest Law Schools in America study was released on March 9 by retired Dayton University law professor Vernellia Randall. The study examines the "whiteness" of America's law schools based on their "total whiteness score" and the "excess whiteness" of first-year law classes compared with the application pool and state demographics.

Berg and Scharf said in a joint statement to the Free Beacon that they are hopeful the study will push the law school to take further action.

"We are committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our law school community and know that we still have work to do in this area," the deans said. "This study draws attention to one measure, but its greater impact may be to help reinforce the need for additional conversations and initiatives."

Berg and Scharf wrote in a September 2020 letter that they felt "mobilized" by "incidents of racism and police brutality" to make a push for racial justice at Case Western.

Those initiatives are detailed in a document on "Race and Justice" at Case Western Reserve University, which the deans shared with the Free Beacon. The initiatives outline how the deans have tried to "integrate racial justice more comprehensively" into the law school's curriculum. Faculty members discussed integrating race and racism into lessons during two meetings in June and created a new course on "Race, Law & Society."