Is 'Diversity' Diverse Enough?

58 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2015 Last revised: 21 Mar 2015

See all articles by Tung Yin

Tung Yin

Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library

Date Written: February 9, 2015


Having survived the latest assault against it in Fisher v. University of Texas, the diversity rationale for affirmative action continues to rule the day in admissions offices across American universities, including law schools. Yet, there is a striking degree of uniformity about what actually constitutes "diversity"; law schools appear to strive for something around 60-70% white students, with the remainder divided fairly evenly among Asian-American, African-American, and Latino/Hispanic students (with a handful of native American students). With the exception of historically Black colleges and universities like Howard, institutions that deviate too much from this conventional view of diversity are commonly assailed for their lack of diversity -- even institutions like UC Berkeley, where whites are not even a majority of the student population.

This article examines the costs of such a uniform conception of diversity. As an example, with so many law schools pursuing a small number of native American law applicants, the result is, with a few notable exceptions, student bodies that have a consistently tiny fraction of native Americans (approximately <1%), which is hardly likely to be any kind of critical mass. A more diverse conception of diversity might accept that some law schools might end up with fewer native Americans, while a few others would enroll significantly more, approaching a more reasonable critical mass; and the same would presumably be true for Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Latinos. In other words, the question is whether having a relatively small number of schools with different notions of racial diversity (i.e., more concentrated in one of the three major minority groups) would provide alternatives for minority students who would like to be part of a group that is more than 10-15 percent of the overall student body. This article explores the result of having some law schools being willing to admit student bodies that are just as diverse in white/minority terms, but where the minority groups are not divided evenly.

Keywords: diversity, affirmative action, critical mass

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Yin, Tung, Is 'Diversity' Diverse Enough? (February 9, 2015). 21 Asian American Law Journal 89 (2014), Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-2, Available at SSRN:

Tung Yin (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library ( email )

10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States

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