Apple Trees, Honeybees, and Snow White Turtledoves
I spent the holidays alone, in my office, reading files. Seriously. Not J.D. admissions files (I'm all caught up with you guys!), but L.L.M. files, which are an international bunch. L.L.M. files are...interesting. Especially the transcripts. For example, did you know that in Germany, the second-best grade of gut, which I am told colloquially means something between "meh" and "fine whatever," is actually the best grade you can get? Like, apparently NO ONE gets sehr gut, which is the highest grade available. I wonder what it must be like to have a grading system where you work your butt off to get the grading equivalent of a 'Nilla Wafer. Wait, that's kind of like the grading system we have here. Never mind.
Anyway, as I was perusing the file of an applicant from Burkina Faso, I started thinking about diversity. Yale of course strives to be diverse in the sense that most people associate with the word -- we encourage highly-qualified applicants from underrepresented minority groups, for example, or self-identified LGBT students, to apply -- because we want an incoming class to encompass a variety of backgrounds, and we want to signal that we are a place that welcomes these groups and provides resources and organizations for them. But when it comes to building a class, we also use a broader definition of diversity, as I have alluded to in a previous post about diversity statements.
For example, it's important to us as an institution to have a variety of viewpoints represented in order to foster robust and challenging classroom discussion -- to this end, we're very interested in having ideological diversity in each class. Law students, and by extension law schools, are on the whole liberal-leaning, so it's up to admissions officers like me to make sure we identify and attract those students who might be more right-of-center. Now, it's harder to surgically target these students, since political affiliations aren't something that LSAC asks you to check on your profile. A few years ago we tried a desperate, shotgun approach and sent invitations to apply to highly-qualified students from the Red States. Our volume dropped that year. Since then, I keep having visions of angry mobs tossing our CRS letters into bonfires, with Handsome Dan being burned alongside Che in effigy.
If that is indeed what happened, let me clear up some confusion. First, the long lines of miserable people you see stretching down the sidewalk belong to the pharmacy at the only slightly-Communist Yale Health Plan, located a block away, not the totally non-Communist Yale Law School. Second, in addition to producing well-known conservative lawyers like Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Yale Law School is the founding home of The Federalist Society, now a national conservative and libertarian legal society that boasts over 40,000 members. Fed Soc, as the organization is known, is extremely active at Yale and hosts numerous events throughout the year, including a recent visit by Karl Rove who led a discussion entitled, "Should Obamacare be Repealed?" And, while it's true that the only tea parties we currently have at Yale are the staid faculty teas led by our professors, the 2010 U.S. Senate race featured YLS alum (and Federalist Society member) Joe Miller '95 as the Tea Party candidate for the Senate seat in Alaska. (Fox News, I should add, is available in the student lounge.)
Another group of people from whom we like to see applications is our servicemen and -women. I personally have a soft spot for service academies, but my attempts to recruit on their campuses were unsuccessful (Navy and Air Force turned me down, West Point never returned my calls or letters). I didn't push the issue -- I've seen War Games. But happily, we have nevertheless amassed a critical mass of former veterans and active duty military officers, leading a few years ago to the creation of a new student group, Yale Law Vets. In addition to delivering a University address on Veteran's Day and presenting JAG recruiting officers with a petition against the (now moot!) Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, students with military backgrounds participate -- along with students who have an interest in veterans' affairs -- in the new Veterans' Legal Services Clinic, which assists local military veterans with obtaining VA benefits and other civil legal needs. The clinic, one of the few in the country and the first of its kind in New England, most recently filed a lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the CT ACLU to compel the military's release of records pertaining to the prevalence of sexual assault in the military.
I like to think that Yale Law School is a place that shows that we all really can get along. On that note, and in the spirit of peace, love, and random product placement, I'll close with the Best. Commercial. Ever.
As we say here: Make love, not Law Journal. Happy New Year, from (203).