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UCLA Law School Boycotts US News & World Report Rankings

UCLA Law School announced on Tuesday that it is joining a growing boycott of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, saying the publication’s methodology penalizes institutions that encourage careers in public law and seek to enroll students from diverse and marginalized communities.

UCLA’s decision amplifies what is becoming the biggest challenge yet for the college ranking industry, following similar decisions made last week by other major law schools in avoid publication. At least half of US News’ top 20 law schools announced they would not participate in the rankings due to longstanding methodological issues. In addition to UCLA, they include Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, Michigan, Duke, and Northwestern.

USC Law, which is currently No. 20 in the US News rankings, did not join the boycott or provide a statement about it. Among California law schools, Stanford is ranked #2, UC Berkeley #9, and UCLA #15.

“The ranking discourages schools from supporting public service careers for their graduates, building a diverse student body, and awarding financial aid based on need,” said the acting dean of the law school. ‘UCLA, Russell Korobkin, in a message to the law school community. “UCLA Law does all of those things, but honoring our core values ​​comes at a cost in ranking points.”

US News officials said their organization will continue to rank the nearly 200 fully accredited law schools whether or not the institutions agree to submit their data. Much of the information used for the rankings is publicly available.

“The US News Best Law Schools ranking is for students looking for the best decision for their legal education. We will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission to ensure that students can count on the best and most accurate information to make this decision,” Eric Gertler, executive chairman and chief executive of US News, said in a statement. “As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide to these students and that mission does not change with these recent announcements.

Korobkin took issue with several aspects of US News’ review methodology. He said the ranking relies on unadjusted undergraduate grade point averages to measure student quality, penalizing those who take courses that tend to award lower grades, such as math, technology, science and technology. engineering and science. The law school dean said it discourages students from pushing themselves with more challenging courses and does not measure their academic abilities or leadership potential. Other critics said the focus on GPA and test scores encourages law schools to award merit-based financial aid to attract top-scoring applicants rather than providing need-based aid. , designed to provide better access for low-income students.

Korobkin also criticized the use of subjective assessments of the “reputation” of law school professors and programs provided by a small number of lawyers, judges, and professors. He said these evaluators “cannot hope to have detailed knowledge of the nearly 200 schools they are asked to evaluate, rather than using more quantifiable measures”.

Like UC Berkeley and other institutions, UCLA Law is also dismayed that the rankings are discouraging students from entering public law.

UC Berkeley, for example, offers students a one-year scholarship after graduation to work in a public benefit organization. Students receive a salary comparable to an entry-level position in the civil service or public interest and an in-study stipend for bar exams. Nine of the 10 students who receive a scholarship remain in civil service law, he said.

But US News does not count these scholarship students as fully employed, creating a “perverse incentive for schools to eliminate these positions, despite their success and despite the training they provide future civil service lawyers,” the week said. last UC Berkeley Dean of Law Erwin Chemerinsky. announcing that the school would join the boycott.

Additionally, Korobkin said US News rewards schools that spend more on their students. But that puts public law schools at a disadvantage, he said, which tend to spend less and charge less than private schools.

To make matters worse, Chemerinsky said, a law school’s spending per student is adjusted for the cost of living in the surrounding region. This means that high-cost regions, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, are penalized despite the lack of evidence that these measures are linked to academic quality. UC Berkeley’s statistical analysis showed that cost-of-living adjustments alone lowered Berkeley’s US News ranking to 9th. He helped elevate Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, to No. 1, above No. 2 Stanford, in Palo Alto.

Some other major law schools that did not join the boycott said they were evaluating the issue, but echoed the criticism.

In a statement last week, the University of Pennsylvania Law School applauded its peer institutions “for their leadership in raising key questions.”

“Among the problems with the current system, the US News algorithm significantly underestimates the money spent on student financial aid, while fully rewarding schools for every dollar spent on faculty and administrator salaries and other school expenses. operation,” the law school said. “Rankings do not provide a comprehensive view of how legal education meets the needs of today’s society.

In an interview, Korobkin said the time taken to discuss the matter with faculty and alumni did not focus on whether the grading methodology was flawed — there was “no doubt “It is,” he said. Instead, the school debated whether taking a stand would make a difference, since 80% of the information US News uses is publicly available.

Ultimately, he said, the law school felt it should take a public stand.

“It is important for us to use this moment to reinforce our values ​​and do what we can to encourage positive change by refusing our cooperation,” he said. “We look forward to working with US News, or any other organization that wants to rank law schools, to help determine a methodology that can provide useful comparative information to prospective students without creating harmful incentives for schools that don’t. ‘not encourage the improvement of legal knowledge.

California Daily Newspapers

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