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Saturday, April 13, 2024

While law schools across the nation might have to turn in records on their affirmative action policies and their effectiveness, UF will have to prove its diversity recruitment efforts in another way.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights is calling on government officials to make law schools release detailed information about affirmative action policies and the success of admitted minority students.

Because Florida does not have affirmative action, the UF Levin College of Law diversifies its applicant pool in other ways. A law school official declined to comment about the Civil Rights commission's actions and the case's development.

The commission argued that requiring law schools to demonstrate commitment to diversity using affirmative action in admissions, which is the approved standard of the American Bar Association, hinders academic freedom.

Michael Patrick, assistant dean of admissions at UF's law school, said attracting minorities is a priority for the Levin College of Law.

Law schools are required to report data to the association each fall about new students, Patrick said. If the policy changes, it probably won't affect UF until next fall.

Of the 378 new students enrolled at the law school this fall, 287 are white, 19 are black, 39 are Hispanic, 22 are Asian, two are Native American and nine are labeled "other," according to law school records.

Patrick said UF recruits minority applicants by advertising, communicating with minority organizations and visiting campuses that traditionally have more minority students, such as Bethune-Cookman University and Florida A & M University.

"People still come to UF's College of Law because of the educational value," he added.

Former President John F. Kennedy first introduced affirmative action in 1961 to settle racial discrimination that existed in workplaces despite civil rights laws.

The program gave special consideration to women and minorities in the work force and later in college admissions.

In 2000, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ended affirmative action and enacted "One Florida," a program that promised admission into one of the state's 10 public universities to public school students in the top 20 percent of their graduating class.

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The first class enrolled under "One Florida" at the law school during fall 2001 was comprised of 209 students, according to law school records. Of those, 148 were white, 23 were black, 21 were Hispanic, 10 were Asian, one was Native American and six were labeled "other."

Patrick said diversity is important because law students will eventually serve society, but the school does not aim for a certain number of students from any minority group.

"This is information that's layered and has gone over a long period of time," Patrick said. "Things really haven't changed that much since affirmative action was on the table."

In regards to minorities, he said most students approach the Levin College of Law on their own.

"They come to you," Patrick said. "You don't stand out in the street and grab them."

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