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HomePanel 1B: Mobilizing for Justice in Education and the Legal

Panel 1B: Mobilizing for Justice in Education and the Legal Profession

The Higher Education Opportunity Project

Jonathan Glater

University of California, Irvine School of Law




Subordination is multidimensional.  In higher education, the focus of this project, students’ opportunities are limited by lack of tangible, financial resources and intangible, cultural and political resources. At relatively selective colleges and universities, screening mechanisms relied upon by admissions offices reinforce preexisting inequality in the pursuit of a particularly narrow definition of merit.  At the same time, many of the nation’s leading institutions have launched ambitious efforts to recruit more socioeconomically diverse classes, including more students from relatively impoverished backgrounds.  This project analyzes the risks of outreach efforts that do not take into account the various dimensions in which subordinating influences operate.


The project is one piece of a larger effort to analyze the different practices and policies that reduce higher education access for students who are not already privileged.  One goal is to demonstrate the danger of focusing on any single dimension of difference.  Socioeconomic diversity on elite college campuses has received great attention in recent years, with institutions like Amherst College, Harvard University, and most recently, Princeton University announcing outreach efforts and generous financial aid packages for relatively poor students.  Scholars have found a pool of high-scoring high school students of limited financial means, who could succeed in the most demanding academic environments if given the opportunity to do so.  Yet within this population, familiar gaps along lines of race and ethnicity persist, implying that focus on socioeconomic diversity alone will not ensure increasing access for those students who belong to groups historically excluded for reasons other than lack of funds.  Similarly, directing outreach to students of color, or particular subgroups of students of color, may not produce a class that is socioeconomically, or perhaps culturally, diverse.


Because practices that exclude operate in different dimensions and so affect different students to different degrees, policies seeking to promote greater equity in access must be similarly interwoven.  Yet the implementation of such policies depends on institutional commitment, and the basis for that commitment is rather muddled.  Colleges and universities pursue multiple missions, as have legislators who have created the structure in which those institutions operate.  One step toward greater equity in access is recognizing the complexity of the obstacles that stand in the way, but an equally important step is developing the justification for making an effort to overcome them.  Institutional priorities, policies, and practices that reward the privileged persist because history offers a justification of them.  The justification for repairing and replacing that web of formal and informal exclusionary rules must come from the present.





Admission by Performance Programs: A Diversity Initiative

Elena B. Langan Dean and Professor of Law Concordia University School of Law


Admission by performance (ABP) programs (also referred to as conditional admission programs), presently in place at twenty-one of the 201 ABA accredited law schools, afford the opportunity for students to be admitted to law school despite poor performance in their undergraduate students or on the LSAT. These programs are typically considered part of enrollment diversity initiatives and are populated by underrepresented minority and non-traditional students. While ABP programs vary in scope and performance expectations from law school to law school, this Article will consider the overarching features of program design. The Article contends that an ABP program without dedicated support resources is a tool to exploitatively fill empty seats, whereas a well-designed ABP program will identify those students who have the aptitude to outperform their incoming credentials. Finally, it is relevant and timely to consider the way in which law school accreditation and rankings undermine the ability to widely use ABP programs as an important component of diversity initiatives.





Collaborate to Advocate:  How Lawyers and Communities Can Work to End Poverty


Amy Horton-Newell                                                             

Director, Commission on Homelessness & Poverty              

American Bar Association

1500 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, DC  20036

(202) 662-1693


Jeff Yungman, LISW-CP, Esq.

Director, One80 Place Homeless Justice Project

35 Walnut Street

Charleston, SC  29403

(843) 737-8361


            Nearly 50 million Americans now live below the federal poverty line.  Recent societal, economic and political events (economic meltdown, mortgage foreclosure academic, Trayvon Martin, Hurricane Katrina, Ferguson, Missouri, Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” 9-11, the “school to prison pipeline,” unaccompanied minors coming across the border, etc.) have given rise to unprecedented public awareness of historic levels of income inequality, numbers of children living in poverty and disparate treatment and impacts of the law and justice systems on communities of color and populations that face other barriers and obstacles to justice, such as disability, limited English proficient, immigrant status and other factors.


            Lawyers can play a significant role in working with communities to end poverty.  To this end the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty is currently identifying, promoting and implementing best practices for eliminating legal and justice system-related polices, practices and procedures, including those tainted by structural racialization and other forms of bias, that perpetuate or worsen the harmful effects of poverty and discrimination on individuals, families and households.


            The Commission has created ten “Blueprints for Action” that contain practical models of ways lawyers and communities can utilize to end poverty.  These blueprints address:  substandard and unaffordable housing and homelessness, disproportionate involvement in criminal and civil justice systems, food inadequacy, inadequate healthcare and poor health outcomes, inadequate educational outcomes, lack of opportunity for full employment at a living wage, living through an unending and continuous cycle of crises, stigma and lack of personal dignity, and isolation form community and political infrastructure.


            This presentation will allow participants 1) to become familiar with the Commission’s toolkit and Blueprint for Action available to communities seeking to develop and operationalize a local anti-poverty agenda and 2) to learn how to collaborate with the Commission to work with local stake holders to host anti-poverty roundtables that address methods to implement best practices in order to ameliorate the harmful effects of poverty in the local community.