Union Drive Update

It’s nice to see UM students working to support the campus workers.

Union boostersUniversity of Miami students, better known for cheering sports teams than riling administrators, are putting unprecedented pressure on President Donna Shalala to improve conditions for about 400 janitors who struggle with low wages and no health insurance.

It’s an awkward position for Shalala, a public advocate of universal healthcare coverage when she was secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration. She is about to make UM, where tuition is $29,000 a year, the first university in Florida to raise $1 billion in a single campaign.

Despite that backdrop of wealth, many men and women who keep the private school’s grounds impeccable work for less than $7 an hour.

I should add, though, that from what I hear, this article in the Herald seriously understates the extent to which the UM administration has sought to prevent students from supporting the union drive. For example, when students were handing out water bottles to picketing workers, the administration accused them of holding an unregistered rally — which was true enough, as they were neither a registered student group, nor had gotten permission to rally — and then subjected the ringleaders to a pretty severe dressing down by senior administrators.

Plus, the Herald’s suggestion that President Shalala, one of nature’s controlling personalities, has a hands-off or even genially supportive attitude to the students strikes me as … unlikely. And the quote from our associate dean (who does speak a bit Californian sometimes), makes her sound unfairly dopey.

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4 Responses to Union Drive Update

  1. dilbert dogbert says:

    Aww! That “speak Californian” hurt. There are so many lingos in Cali that I don’t know which one you are talking about, unless it is California political speak, and that is the same the world over.

  2. Matt Bodie says:

    I might not have read correctly, but wasn’t it the associate dean’s son who was speaking Californian?

  3. Senor Gato says:

    It’s wonderful to read students at UM care about there own. Unfortunately caring for others sputters to a halt long before reaching Alachua County, Gainseville – home to the University of Florida-Levin College of Law.

    In particular, the administration at the Levin College of Law seems to care only little about the plight of its students of color. Below is an open letter written to Dean Jerry by a group of concerned students. The letter (see letter #1 below) alongside a signature board for students to sign was posted on the law school campus, where many of us gathered yesterday (Wednesday, January 18th) and distributed duplicates of the same open letter. Our goal was – and remains – to encourage, indeed urge, the administration to an open dialogue. Alas, instead of our desired result, the chilling official reply given by the administration (see letter #2 below) has sparked somewhat of a small tempest within the College. Indeed even faculty have begun to chime in on the issue (see letter #3 below). For an aritcle written by a local paper covering yesterday’s gathering/protest visit: http://www.alligator.org/pt2/060119petition.php

    Letter #1:

    Dean Robert Jerry:

    We are deeply troubled by the low number of students of color accepted to (and consequently attending) the University of Florida-Levin College of Law. In particular we are disturbed by the relatively low level of minority enrollment in this spring’s entering class. We feel the law school administration must do more to attract, admit, and retain more students of color. The current numbers leave little doubt that this administration lacks concern over improving cultural diversity at the law school. Indeed nowhere is the administration’s apathy more plainly reflected than in the handful of students of color who have taken their place in the Spring 2006 entering class. Currently the entering class is comprised of only 2 Asian student, 7 Black student, and 8 Latino students. We are confident that, as the State’s flagship and premier law school, we can do better than a mere 17 percent.

    To be sure, if the Levin College of Law is to compete with the very best law schools (and achieve its perennial goal of being a top ten public law school) it must do more to meet or beat its peer institutions on every criterion – including cultural diversity. Without doubt the top public law schools do far better than us in this area. For instance, many of the top Association of American Universities (AAU) public law schools have percentage numbers for people of color that dwarf our paltry 17 percent. To name but a few, the University of California-Davis (38%), University of California-Berkley (37%), University of California-L.A. (30%), University of Texas (28%), and the University of Michigan (25%) all have percentage numbers well into the 20s and 30s. Sadly, our 17 percent comfortably places us at the very bottom of all the top AAU public law schools:

    1: University of California, Davis (37.7%);
    2: University of California, Berkeley (37%);
    3: University of Maryland (33.3%);
    4: University of Illinois (32.3%);
    5: University of Arizona (30.6%);
    6: University of California, Los Angeles (30%);
    7: University of Texas at Austin (27.9%);
    8: University of Wisconsin-Madison (25.5%);
    9: University of Michigan (25.4%);
    10: University of North Carolina (23.5%);
    11: Ohio State University (20.7%);
    12: University of Colorado (20.1%);
    13: University of Washington (18.7%);
    14: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA (17.3%);
    15: The University of Iowa and University of Virginia (16.4%);
    16: University of Minnesota (16%)

    Nonetheless, we feel positive strides can be – and should be – taken by this administration to allay our concerns about the direction our law school is heading. Good starting points would be to (1) reinstate the MPLE scholarship at UF law, (2) actively recruit from a broader pool of students, and (3) actively seek assistance from student organizations to help mentor/recruit students. We are confident the University of Florida-Levin College of Law will soon achieve its goal of being recognized among the very top and prestigious public law schools in the nation. We are equally confident that striving for and achieving a much greater degree of cultural diversity is instrumental to realizing this goal.

    -End-

    Letter #2:

    Yesterday, many of you saw a copy of a one page open, unsigned letter addressed to Dean Jerry. The letter asserts that the “current numbers [of students enrolled in the group that began their legal study this month] leave little doubt that this administration lacks concern over improving cultural diversity at the law school.” It goes on to state that “positive strides can be – and should be – taken by this administration to allay our concerns about the direction our law school is heading,” and urges (1) reinstatement of the MPLE scholarships; (2) active recruitment of a broader pool of students; and (3) seeking active assistance from student organizations in mentoring and recruiting students.
    The administration of the College of Law recognizes that diversity in the legal profession is an important goal not only of the College, but also of many other groups, including the judiciary and the bar. It shares this goal and is committed to continuing and strengthening our efforts to recruit and enroll students of color in the College of Law. The College welcomes assistance from student organizations in achieving this goal.

    It is important to note that the MPLE scholarship program was not a College of Law program, but one that was initiated and funded by the State of Florida and open to students attending all of the law schools in the state. Regrettably, in May 2002 the Florida Legislature enacted an immediate phase-out of the MPLE program. The justification for eliminating the MPLE program was two-fold. First, the state approved funding for two new state law schools at universities that traditionally enrolled large numbers of students of color: Florida A&M University and Florida International University. Second, the Legislature concluded that, pursuant to One Florida, all race-based scholarships sponsored by the state should be eliminated. One Florida prohibits the College of Law, and all other State University System schools, from considering the race of applicants when making admissions decisions.

    Much of the text of the letter also contains data on which the letter writers base a conclusion that the College is “at the very bottom of all the top AAU public law schools” in percentages of people of color in its student body. This statement is incorrect. The letter writers have used incorrect data and have misperceived or misunderstood other data. As a result, their conclusions about the enrollment of students of color, and the relative effectiveness of the College of Law in diversifying its student body, are wrong.

    First, it is correct that 17 students of color began their legal studies in January, 2006 – 2 Asian students, 7 Black students, and 8 Latino students. However, only 91 total students began their legal studies at that time, so the percentage of students of color in the group is 18.7, not 17% as the writers assert.

    Far more important is the fact that the percentage of students in the complete 2005 entering class is 22.8, well above the percentage reported by the letter writers. The 91 students who began their studies in January represent only a portion of a unitary class selected from a single pool of applicants in the spring of 2005. There was no separate application and selection process for the students who began their legal studies this January. Some of these students (207) began their studies in August 2005 and the balance (91) started in January 2006. Of the 298 students in the total class, there are 12 Asian students, 26 Black students, 29 Hispanic students, and 1 Native American student. This total of 68 students of color in a class of 298 constitutes an overall percentage of students of color of 22.8.

    Finally, to support their conclusion that the College of Law was “at the very bottom,” the writers of the letter cited percentages of students of color at a number of public law schools. They appear to have obtained their data from the 2006 Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. The percentages they cite for other law schools, however, are of students of color in the entire student body (all years) and not the percentages for first year students alone. Thus, their numbers are misleading because they compare percentages derived from different groups of students: first year students at the College of Law, and all students at other law schools. When the percentages of students of color in the first year classes at all of the law schools are used, the College of Law certainly is not “at the very bottom.” Those first year class percentages for the comparator schools, and the correct percentage for the College’s complete 2005 entering class, appear below*:

    1) University of Illinois 37.3%
    2) University of California, Berkeley 35.3%
    3) University of California, Davis 33.8%
    4) University of Texas 31.8%
    5) University of Arizona 31.6%
    6) University of Maryland 30.6%
    7) University of Wisconsin 30.1%
    8) University of California, Los Angeles 29%
    9) University of Michigan 26.4%
    10) Ohio State University 26.2%
    11) University of Colorado 25%
    12) University of Florida 22.8%
    13) University of North Carolina 20.7%
    14) University of Minnesota 17.7%
    15) University of Washington 17.1%
    16) University of Virginia 16.9%
    17) University of Iowa 15.9%
    *AAU Public Law Schools not listed on petition: Kansas, Buffalo, Rutgers, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Missouri-Columbia, and Nebraska.

    Finally, it is important to emphasize that under One Florida the College of Law is prohibited from considering the race of applicants when making admissions decisions.

    Most of the other law schools on the list above are not subject to such a prohibition.

    The College of Law recognizes that it is vital to maintain and strengthen our efforts to increase diversity in law schools and in the legal profession. It also recognizes that there is room for improvement in the enrollment of students of color at the College of Law. It also is important, however, to understand the current factual situation correctly.

    George Dawson
    Associate Dean and Professor
    University of Florida
    Levin College of Law

    -End-

    Letter #3:

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am sure many of you are aware of the open letter and petition that
    is being circulated concerning diversity at the Levin College of Law.
    Dean Dawson has written a response to the letter and circulated it via
    email. Dean Dawson’s response states that “diversity in the legal profession
    is an important goal… of the College” and that the administration
    “is committed to continuing and strengthening our efforts to recruit and
    enroll students of color in the College of Law.” Nonetheless, Dean
    Dawson claims that “the letter writers have used incorrect data and have misperceived or misunderstood other data. As a result, their conclusions about the enrollment of students of
    color, and the relative effectiveness of the College of Law in
    diversifying its student body, are wrong.” What Dean Dawson takes
    issue with is the claim that the College of Law is at “the very
    bottom” of public AAU law schools when it came to diversity. Dean Dawson also
    points out that “under One Florida the College of Law is prohibited
    from considering the race of applicants when making admissions decisions.”

    Dean Dawson provides revised figures which indicate that out of 17
    public AAU institutions UF ranks 12th, instead of 14th, as claimed by
    the students. I am not at all convinced that this new ranking
    invalidates the student’s claim. After all, the “bottom” is the “bottom,” even if one could make a
    linguistic argument that 12th out of 17 is not the “very” bottom.
    What is also apparent from reviewing Dean Dawson’s figures is that fact
    that numbers 2,3, and 4 on the list are Texas and two California schools
    that also are handicapped by state provisions that prohibit the
    consideration of race in admissions decisions. In other words, there is no excuse
    for UF’s poor showing when comes to maintaining diversity of its student
    body and providing a quality education for its students as the Supreme
    Court has urged law schools to do in Grutter v. Bolinger.

    The students have suggested that the law school take three steps to
    increase the diversity of its student body: (1) reinstatement of the
    MPLE scholarships; (2) active recruitment of a broader pool of
    students; and (3) seeking active assistance from student organizations in
    mentoring and recruiting students. I think these are great suggestions.

    To them I would add a fourth. The law school should cease its
    excessive reliance on the LSAT and other abstract measures of law student
    potential. How we actually accomplish this is a matter that will
    require study and debate. I am grateful that a significant number of
    our students have started a debate that we as faculty and staff should
    have started on our own. That’s why I signed the petition and why I
    encourage you to do so too.

    Kenneth B. Nunn
    Professor of Law
    University of Florida
    Fredric G. Levin College of Law
    P.O. Box 117625
    Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
    (352) 392-2211

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