University Of Arizona Law School Dean Admits Race Remains A Factor In Admissions

August 28, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |  

The assistant dean of University of Arizona (UArizona) law school admits that they have an ongoing system in place that effectively curtails the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling prohibiting affirmative action.   

The SCOTUS ruling ended race-based admissions in June, requiring colorblind criteria. Cary Lee Cluck, UArizona James E. Rogers College of Law assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, admitted that they still factor race in admissions during last month’s Association of American Law Schools (AALS) conference on affirmative action. Cluck was a key panelist tasked with discussing how law schools can achieve diversity without affirmative action.  

Cluck shared that UArizona’s law school relies on a “holistic review” of applicants. In defining what a holistic review entails, Cluck explained that their admissions team reviews college transcripts and resumes to better understand what an applicant is all about, within the context of meeting the law school’s diversity goals. Cluck added that applicants who volunteer more information about themselves in their application are more likely to benefit, specifically citing race.   

“When I say ‘holistic file review,’ we’re looking at all of those little pieces of things that we’ve asked you to give us and, some that are optional, that you can give us to get a fuller picture of who you are as a person,” said Cluck. “[I]ncluding other types of diversity beyond or alongside, you know, talking about your racial background is a good thing because it gives us, like we’ve been talking about, another piece or many more pieces of the puzzle to consider who you are in a holistic manner and trying to make a decision about you.”

Cluck said that they don’t proactively ask for a diversity statement, but do consider them when they’re submitted by applicants.  

“It’s another piece of the puzzle […] that we take into consideration, when we are reading the application,” said Cluck. “They’re not always about racial discrimination or gender discrimination, but they can be a diversity statement about a lot of different things. They are very useful in the application process.”  

It’s likely that applicants include a diversity statement into either materials containing their personal statement or “other considerations.” The law school requires applicants to submit a personal statement concerning personal characteristics and qualities, education and work experiences, talents and special interests, socioeconomic background, involvement in community affairs and public services, and “any other circumstances that have helped shape your life or given it direction.” The law school admissions team also reviews an unspecified slew of “other considerations.”  

Both UArizona College of Law students and faculty sit on the admissions committee, but Cluck is the final arbiter.   

In response to the SCOTUS ruling, UArizona issued a press release noting that Arizona law has already prohibited the consideration of race or ethnicity in university admissions since 2010. It appears that the university and its law school have had 13 years to find a workaround to the prohibition. 

Watch the AALS conference below:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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