Minority enrollment rises at Berkeley More blacks, Hispanics, Asians enter law school


BERKELEY, Calif. -- Minority enrollment at the University of California at Berkeley Law School will increase slightly in this year compared with a year ago, admissions officials said.

As the law school approaches a second year without affirmative action in admissions, officials announced that minority admissions will be up 32 over what they were at the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year.

The increase brings the number of minority students enrolled at the law school to 85 of the total 275 students.

Law School Dean Herma Kay Hill said the results were significant but indicated that she believed they could improve.

"While these results are gratifying, they are still below the level of traditionally underrepresented minority students enrolled prior to 1997," she said.

After the University of California Regents ended affirmative action in graduate schools last year, minority enrollment at the Berkeley law school dropped precipitously, and the school enrolled only one black student -- the lowest black enrollment since the 1950s.

This put the school in the national spotlight and motivated administrators to re-evaluate some aspects of the admission practices.

Kay attributed this year's increased minority enrollment in part to the revised policies, which included de-emphasizing the law school admission test, or LSAT.

She noted that the school also discontinued a formula used to weigh undergraduate grades according to institutions attended and increased the pool from which the faculty made its choices.

Minority enrollment at the law school in the coming school year increased across the spectrum.

Hispanic enrollees went from 10 to 16 and African-Americans increased from one to nine.

The biggest jump in minority enrollment came in a category the school describes as "Asian subgroups." These students, which include South Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islanders, rose from six to 17.

"These changes, while relatively modest, were very important," Kay said. "They helped dispel the false public impression that [the law school at Berkeley] is hostile to minority candidates."

California and Texas are the only states in the country that have eliminated affirmative action from their public university enrollment policies.

Last year many minority students who had been admitted said they declined to go to the law school at Berkeley because they believed it would not be a supportive environment for minorities.

Kay said that this year, once minority students had been admitted, law school faculty and students undertook aggressive efforts to get them to enroll.

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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