Apple Trees, Honeybees, and Snow White Turtledoves

December 23, 2010

I spent the holidays alone, in my office, reading files. Seriously. Not J.D. admissions files (I'm all caught up with you guys!), but L.L.M. files, which are an international bunch. L.L.M. files are . . . interesting. Especially the transcripts. For example, did you know that in Germany, the second-best grade of gut, which I am told colloquially means something between "meh" and "fine whatever," is actually the best grade you can get? Like, apparently NO ONE gets sehr gut, which is the highest grade available. I wonder what it must be like to have a grading system where you work your butt off to get the grading equivalent of a 'Nilla Wafer. Wait, that's kind of like the grading system we have here. Never mind.

Anyway, as I was perusing the file of an applicant from Burkina Faso, I started thinking about diversity. Yale of course strives to be diverse in the sense that most people associate with the word—we encourage highly-qualified applicants from underrepresented minority groups, for example, or self-identified LGBT students, to apply—because we want an incoming class to encompass a variety of backgrounds, and we want to signal that we are a place that welcomes these groups and provides resources and organizations for them. But when it comes to building a class, we also use a broader definition of diversity, as I have alluded to in a previous post about diversity statements.

For example, it's important to us as an institution to have a variety of viewpoints represented in order to foster robust and challenging classroom discussion—to this end, we're very interested in having ideological diversity in each class. Law students, and by extension law schools, are on the whole liberal-leaning, so it's up to admissions officers like me to make sure we identify and attract those students who might be more right-of-center. Now, it's harder to surgically target these students, since political affiliations aren't something that LSAC asks you to check on your profile. A few years ago we tried a desperate, shotgun approach and sent invitations to apply to highly-qualified students from the Red States. Our volume dropped that year. Since then, I keep having visions of angry mobs tossing our CRS letters into bonfires, with Handsome Dan being burned alongside Che in effigy.

If that is indeed what happened, let me clear up some confusion. First, the long lines of miserable people you see stretching down the sidewalk belong to the pharmacy at the only slightly-Communist Yale Health Plan, located a block away, not the totally non-Communist Yale Law School. Second, in addition to producing well-known conservative lawyers like Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Yale Law School is the founding home of The Federalist Society, now a national conservative and libertarian legal society that boasts over 40,000 members. Fed Soc, as the organization is known, is extremely active at Yale and hosts numerous events throughout the year, including a recent visit by Karl Rove who led a discussion entitled, "Should Obamacare be Repealed?" And, while it's true that the only tea parties we currently have at Yale are the staid faculty teas led by our professors, the 2010 U.S. Senate race featured YLS alum (and Federalist Society member) Joe Miller '95 as the Tea Party candidate for the Senate seat in Alaska. (Fox News, I should add, is available in the student lounge.)

Another group of people from whom we like to see applications is our servicemen and women. I personally have a soft spot for service academies, but my attempts to recruit on their campuses were unsuccessful (Navy and Air Force turned me down, West Point never returned my calls or letters). I didn't push the issue—I've seen War Games. But happily, we have nevertheless amassed a critical mass of veterans and active duty military officers, leading a few years ago to the creation of a new student group, Yale Law Vets. In addition to delivering a University address on Veteran's Day and presenting JAG recruiting officers with a petition against the (now moot!) Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, students with military backgrounds participate—along with students who have an interest in veterans' affairs—in the new Veterans' Legal Services Clinic, which assists local military veterans with obtaining VA benefits and other civil legal needs. The clinic, one of the few in the country and the first of its kind in New England, most recently filed a lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the CT ACLU to compel the military's release of records pertaining to the prevalence of sexual assault in the military.

I like to think that Yale Law School is a place that shows that we all really can get along. On that note, and in the spirit of peace, love, and random product placement, I'll close with the Best. Commercial. Ever.

As we say here: Make love, not Law Journal. Happy New Year, from (203).


Matt said:

You talked about military officers applying and having a presence at the Law School. What about police officers who want to make the transition to law school? Do you see very many applications from them? Is a police officer applicant similar to a military applicant, or do you view them as a totally different animal?

January 14, 2011 1:11 PM

Hopeful! said:

Hi Asha,

You mentioned that you're all caught up on J.D admissions files. I know that offers are already being made, but are rejections also mailed out during this time, or is it still too early?


January 20, 2011 2:13 PM

asha said:

@ Matt: I don't see a lot of applications from police officers—literally one or two a year. I did not mean to imply in my post that I lump applicants into categories, and so I don't really think of it in terms of police officers being like/unlike military officers. Rather, I look to see the unique experiences people coming in from any background bring to the table, with one example being military applicants who may have an interest in certain resources and groups that have developed over the last few years. So, my point is that while police officers are not a group which we actively target and which has a strong presence at the law School currently, we would value any unique contribution such applicants would bring to our incloming class and would consider that in evaluating the application.

January 21, 2011 12:27 PM

asha said:

@ Hopeful: Rejections will probably go out in the next couple of weeks. Like Santa, we like to double check our lists, so thanks for your patience!

January 21, 2011 12:28 PM

aws said:

oh my god i remember this Commercial its so old and for some reason it brings alot of memories for me :)

January 23, 2011 12:55 AM

Hopeful said:

Hi Asha,

I have one last question. After reading blogs I’m realizing that people seem to profess their love to YLS in all sorts of ways. Although Yale is my first choice, I didn’t articulate that anywhere in my application. Based upon Yale’s evaluation approach, it didn’t seem like it would matter. But now I'm wondering! At this point in the process, does it help at all to express that, or is it something that’s only useful in the event that an applicant is waitlisted? Also, do acceptances from other “top” law schools make any difference? I’m assuming not, but I've seen all sorts of things on these law school forums, so I figured I’d ask. Thank you!

January 24, 2011 12:43 AM

asha said:

@ Hopeful: Thanks for your question. While we love to be flattered, declaring your love for YLS in your application will not make a difference in whether or not you're admitted. I guess we kind of assume that most applicants will make such declarations to each school to which they're applying, and in the end we're making the decision based on the substance of your application, not based on the likelihood of whether you'll attend. Similarly, your acceptance to other law schools will carry no weight in the admissions process here.

Indicating that Yale is your first choice can be helpful in the event you are waitlisted. Here, the calculus is a little different because we assume that if you got into your first choice school, you wouldn't remain on our waitlist. The extra effort on your part to let us know that you would come to Yale if admittted can carry a little weight as we sift through the pile to fill slots. You can check out my Bad Idea Jeans post for waitlist applicants for more on this.

I hope this is helpful!

January 24, 2011 1:36 PM

Hopeful said:

Thanks for the quick response!

January 24, 2011 2:23 PM

Curious_George said:

Does Yale keep a copy of diversity statements or admissions essays once the student is admitted (if the candidate is admitted)? Are the materials kept if the student is rejected? If so, for how long? Are application materials sealed? For instance, if someone comes out in a diversity statement or essay, is there any chance that this information would ever be leaked if say a prospective candidate had an interest in public policy or politics?

February 5, 2011 11:48 PM

Joyful said:

Hey Asha, I'm Chinese junior student and my major is transportation. You know what, I really want to join in law school after my graduation! Of course Yale is a great choice as YLS is so charming that attract thousands of students around the world to apply for admission. Obviously I’m not a exception. Well I really want to get some advices from you to improve myself and to be a qualified student to YLS. Thank you very very much!!

February 13, 2011 8:33 AM

Sarah said:

I loved the line "Make love, not Law Journal." I'm matriculating at Yale Law this Fall, and the sentiment is super soothing. Thank you!

March 1, 2014 12:18 PM