A couple weeks ago I wrote about how well the 98 speakers at the celebration of black alumni did while they were at Harvard Law School. It turned out that only eight of them received honors, about 8%. This was only about a fifth the rate at which their classes as a whole received honors (since 1999, 40% have graduated with honors, and before then it was even easier to get honors).
I wondered: what about the black alumni who attended the celebration but who didn’t speak? Were they any smarter, as measured by their academic performance on blind-graded exams after they were given the benefit of any doubt and given the opportunity to attend Harvard Law School?
Don’t get me wrong here. As I said before, I like black people, and some of my best friends are blacks. I like the idea of giving the benefit of the doubt to blacks and other applicants who may not seem quite as smart as others when they apply, because they came from poor families or didn’t go to the best secondary schools or colleges, but who seem to have the potential to do as well or almost as well as the others. I just think it’s important to ask at some point, after “affirmative action” applicants are admitted — and especially if they come back and hold a big “blacks only” celebration after graduation, at which they honor those who created the affirmative-action admissions program — how well they actually ended up doing compared to their classmates.
There were 380 non-speaking black attendees, listed on the Law School website here. Unlike the list of the speakers, this list doesn’t mention whether or not the attendees graduated with honors. That’s a matter of public record and I looked it up for each attendee. I guess it’s possible I made a mistake and missed someone, and if so please let me know. But I’m pretty sure my numbers are right.
After all that work, I wish I had something exciting to report, but the bottom line is the same: only about 8% of them graduated with honors (32 of the 380, all but one of them cum laude), a fifth the average rate. You can read all the details here.
The numbers are even worse if you look at recent trends. The great majority of the black attendees who received honors (22 of the 32) graduated during the rampant grade inflation of the 1990s when close to half, maybe more than half, received honors — before a 1999 reform which strictly capped honors at 40% of the class. Honors for blacks plummeted once the cap went into effect. Indeed, a decade passed before another black graduated with honors (2008, Alissa Jijon).
A random selection of 139 people who graduated from Harvard Law School between 1999 and 2011 would contain about 55 honors graduates (40%), with about 14 of them graduating magna cum laude. Of the 139 black attendees who graduated during this period, only four graduated with honors (all cum laude; zero magna cum laude). It appears that for the past decade at Harvard Law School blacks have graduated with honors at less than a tenth of the rate of their classmates as a whole. This information tends to support a criticism that “Remnant,” one of my readers, has made of my earlier analysis based on the academic records of the 98 speakers: “You are OVERestimating the number of blacks who actually qualify to be at the top law schools they attend. The number crunching at the following link puts it at about 1 in ten.”
I have not studied Remant’s information carefully, but one source he cites says that only 16 blacks a year in the whole country score high enough on the LSAT to keep above the bottom quarter of Harvard Law School’s admissions pool. If that’s true, and if once admitted to Harvard Law School the blacks who are admitted do not take full advantage of the opportunity and make up for lost ground, then perhaps it should come as little surprise that almost none of them graduate in the top 40% of their class.