Minority recruitment questioned

By Vickie Snow

While the NIU College of Law dean claims minority student recruitment and retention “significantly” improved, one minority group said the results are inadequate.

This year, there was a “significant increase” in the number of minorities, said Law Dean Leonard Strickman. Minorities totaled 9 percent of all law students in Fall 1989, as compared to 6 percent in Fall 1988 and 7.5 percent in Fall 1987.

owever, the Black Law Student Association said 9 percent was inadequate. “We’re no better off than we were last year, in regards to blacks and Hispanics,” said BLSA President Anthony Carr.

The question the BLSA wants answered is “how many more minority students will be here next year?” Carr said.

Strickman said, “It is too early to tell. Next year’s class is less than half-filled.” The law school received six affirmative answers from 26 minorities offered admittance, he said.

In a previous interview, Carr said NIU’s law school is losing out to other state law schools when it comes to minorities because it does not offer competitive money packages.

“The bottom line is no matter what (the law school) has done, if it doesn’t translate into more (minority) bodies, it’s not an effective way of recruiting,” he said.

Strickman said the law school made improvements regarding minority retention and recruitment, and admitted more improvements are still needed.

“There is a history at this institution of a problem with attracting and maintaining blacks and Hispanics,” he said.

However, Carr said, “We don’t have to go around playing with numbers—the numbers speak for themselves.”

Carr also questioned why minority law students generally do not make it through the first year of the three-year program.

Strickman said when offering minorities a spot at the college, “we take more risks” on whether the applicant will graduate.

Three of the four minority students enrolled in the first-year class of the three-year law program made it through the first year, but all three had job-related experience, Carr said.

For those minority students who started classes in 1987, 1988 and 1989, 70 percent graduated, Strickman said. A breakdown by race showed 67 percent of black students and 75 percent of Hispanic students graduated, he said.

Strickman proposed to help minority law students with a pre-law summer program for black and Hispanic undergraduates in cooperation with other state colleges.

However, Carr said, “The program is designed to increase the applicant pool throughout the state,” not necessarily at NIU.

The law school is trying to increase the applicant pool size because all states go for the same small pool, he said.

“It is only a proposal and there is no concrete funding” for the idea, Carr said.

Last year, the American Bar Association came to NIU to review the law school’s progress and the ABA was told everything was improving since the applicant pool increased, Carr said. That is what the ABA was told this year, he said.

Strickman said he is confident the idea will be approved soon. The Illinois Board of Higher Education gave the proposal preliminary approval and asked for a second proposal, something that usually does not happen, Strickman said.

However, Carr said even if the proposal is given the go-ahead, “it would take three to four years to implement and have results for undergraduate efforts.”