The National Law Journal headline is "Research attests to the value of diversity at law schools," and that's certainly how study authors Charles Daye et al. pitch their piece. But they simply demonstrate shoddy science to reach the authors' predetermined conclusions.
The study relied on self-reporting of law students, and found that "Many students reported that they left law school with a deeper understanding of the law as a result of diversity among their classmates." Thus, the authors argue diversity should matter in admissions.
The non sequitur is astonishing. All we conclude is that students think that diversity helps their understanding of the law. In the absence of controls (or even a quantifiable statistic for "understanding of the law"), the most we can conclude is that students want to seem politically correct when talking to interviewers.
Even if we were to accept the conclusions of the paper, the policy conclusions—there's a benefit to race discrimination in the name of diversity—do not follow.
Leave aside the constitutional question whether these unquantifiable diversity benefits survive strict scrutiny. How much diversity is required? If every law school abolished diversity-based race discrimination (so that schools that refused to participate in the race-based race wouldn't lose qualified students to better-ranked law schools that reach down to inflate their non-Asian minority population), would the resulting percentages of non-Asian minorities be sufficient to inculcate students with the benefits of diversity? If so, why need affirmative action at all?
If the argument that diversity is good because of the exposing of students to differing viewpoints, wouldn't students be better off if a law school went out and used affirmative action to recruit a Hasid, a Sri Lankan, a Macedonian, an Argentinian, a Mennonite, a Latvian, a Roma, a Gujarati Hindu, a Tibetan Buddhist, and a North Korean refugee? That surely does much more to increase the number of viewpoints available to students than disregarding African-American LSAT scores in admissions. Many law schools have no Hasidim or Roma or North Korean refugee students whatsoever, and the increase from zero to one surely does more for promoting diverse viewpoints than the twenty-third African-American does.
If law schools really care about diverse viewpoints, shouldn't they be doing more to promote diverse viewpoints in faculty hiring? In particular, it's well known that Federalist Society membership and conservative credentials result in blackballing at many law schools; even the schools with token conservatives are overwhelmingly liberal. Surely to the extent students benefit from diverse viewpoints, they'd especially benefit from diverse political viewpoints from faculty. Perhaps we should have a two-year hiring freeze on non-Federalists until conservatives catch up?
Or is the argument that only African-Americans have the innate qualities that create the positive externality of diversity? I'm waiting for someone to come out and say that, though it seems suspiciously like the Magical Negro stereotype.
"Daye said he hopes the findings will influence admissions officials to continue to consider race as at least a small part of the review process and will help inform the courts struggling with affirmative action challenges." I bet.
Related: Big Business weighs in with an unpersuasive brief in Fisher v. University of Texas. [Clegg @ Bench Memos] One hopes that Jenner & Block wasn't being paid with shareholder money for this buoyant political correctness.
Update: more discussion.