Saturday, November 06, 2004

"MORMON STUDIES PROGRAM" AT CLAREMONT

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This is interesting:
A California school is looking at opening the first chair for Mormon studies outside of Utah for study of the faith's history, people and traditions.

Karen Torjesen, dean of religious studies at Claremont Graduate University's School of Religion, said separate councils studying possible chairs for several religions are due to file their recommendations next year, a Salt Lake newspaper reported Saturday.
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The Mormon studies program could be among several new chairs in religious studies Claremont is examining for such religions as Islam, Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Protestantism and Catholicism.
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Another effort to open a Mormon studies chair at Utah Valley State College has met resistance. Some residents of Orem, Utah, fear it could evolve into a Mormon-bashing program undermining the faith of the school's 24,000 students, most of whom are Mormon.

"There is so much cultural baggage and still a lot of hurdles we have to jump over in order to make the community feel comfortable with academic study of Mormonism," said Brian Birch, director of religious studies at Utah Valley State College, who received his doctorate at Claremont.
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Mormons in Southern California like the idea, said Amy Hoyt, a doctoral candidate in women's studies at Claremont and a member of the school's Mormon advisory council.

"There's some surprise that it's a secular, non-Utah university" that would take up Mormon studies, she said. "I also get a sense of relief from people, like 'finally someone is going to take us seriously.'"
She said the Mormon church is becoming a topic of increasing interest among religion scholars as it grows beyond the Western Hemisphere into a worldwide faith. Yale University held a scholarly conference on Mormonism two years ago, and Harvard University also is taking an interest.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

AFIRMATIVE ACTION HURTS BLACK LAW STUDENTS

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Eugene Volokh, one of my favorite bloggers, is commenting on a study (link requires registration, so email for a copy of the article if you are interested) reporting that
Affirmative action hurts black law students more than it helps them, by bumping applicants up into law schools where they are more likely to earn poor grades, drop out, and fail their states' bar exams, according to a forthcoming study by a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The author, Richard H. Sander, argues that ending racial preferences in law-school admissions would increase the number of black lawyers because it would help ensure that students attend law schools where they are more likely to succeed.

A report of the study, scheduled to appear in the November issue of the Stanford Law Review, has sparked a contentious debate among supporters and critics of affirmative action. . . .

His report, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools," says that:

-After the first year of law school, 51 percent of black students have grade-point averages that place them in the bottom tenth of their classes, compared with 5 percent of white students. "Evidence suggests that when you're doing that badly, you're learning less than if you were in the middle of a class" at a less-prestigious law school, Mr. Sander says.

-Among students who entered law school in 1991, about 80 percent of white students graduated and passed the bar on their first attempt, compared with just 45 percent of black students. In a race-blind admissions system, the number of black graduates passing the bar the first time would jump to 74 percent, he says, based on his statistical analysis of how higher grades in less competitive schools would result in higher bar scores. Black students are nearly six times as likely as whites not to pass state bar exams after multiple attempts.

-Ending affirmative action would increase the number of new black lawyers by 8.8 percent because students would attend law schools where they would struggle less and learn more, and earn higher grades.

-With the exception of the most-elite law schools, good grades matter more to employers than the law school's prestige.
Volokh is impressed with both the author and the findings. So am I.