Columbia Law School said on its website that it would require all applicants to submit a 90-second “video statement” following the Supreme Court’s ban on race-based college admissions.
“All applicants will be required to submit a short video, no longer than 90 seconds, addressing a randomly chosen question,” school admissions page he said Monday morning. “The video statement will allow applicants to provide the Admissions Committee with additional insight into their personal strengths.”
Critics slammed the move as a thinly veiled attempt to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling and practice affirmative action by other means, using appearance as a proxy for race. Columbia’s decision “has all the hallmarks of a deliberate effort to circumvent the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” said Edward Blum, founder of Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiffs in the June case that ban affirmative action. “What is a 90-second video supposed to legitimately convey that a written statement could not?”
Reached to comment Washington Free BeaconHowever, a spokesperson for the law school said it had all been a misunderstanding, and as of 6:00 p.m. Monday evening, Columbia had removed the language from its website.
“Video statements will not be required as part of the fall 2024 JD application when it becomes available in September,” the law school said in the free lighthouse in a statement. “It was inadvertently included on the Law School website and has since been corrected.”
Law school required video depositions transfer applicants for the first time in May, part of a pilot program that Columbia said has now concluded. Language extending that requirement to all applicants did not appear on the school’s website until after the Supreme Court’s ruling in late June, he said. archived web pages reviewed by free lighthouse.
“The timing is so suspicious I have to wonder, are they that dumb?” said a current Columbia Law student, before the requirement was dropped. “They don’t even try to hide it.”
Columbia did not say whether video statements would be optional in future application cycles.
The reversal came after Columbia law journals delayed masthead acceptances in the wake of the ban on affirmative action, they said they had an “obligation” to ensure their selection process was “consistent with the law.” While some law faculties, including Harvard i Cornellconducted optional interviews before the Supreme Court’s decision, none have implemented anything like Columbia’s short-term requirement.
“Law schools should not be selecting future lawyers based on personal appearance,” a Columbia Law School graduate, now a partner at a prominent New York law firm, said of the murky policy . “This was a transparent attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling and, by extension, the Civil Rights Act.”
Blum’s group has it argued that the ban on affirmative action means schools can no longer ask applicants to check a box indicating their race. As colleges and universities recalibrate their admissions policies in light of the ruling, videos can become an easy way to collect and consider data they officially can’t use, said David Bernstein, professor at George Mason Law School.
“This feels like an insurance policy in case their lawyers say ‘you can’t ask about race,'” Bernstein told the free lighthouse. “I’ve never heard of law school requiring video.”
While the Supreme Court barred colleges from considering race as such, it did allow them to consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life,” a settlement that was expected increase schools’ reliance on interviews and essays. Admissions practices are already moving in this direction: Yale Law School piloted one talk show for the first time last fall—around the same time the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the affirmative action case—while Stanford, Dartmouthand the University of Virginia added identity essay messages after the Court’s verdict.
Those kinds of solutions can be difficult to challenge directly, said Dan Morenoff, executive director of the American Civil Rights Project, a conservative law firm that specializes in reverse discrimination complaints. But video statements are more volatile and could open schools to litigation.
“There is no reason for the school to need a video, so the requirement for this submission is powerful evidence of an intent to discriminate,” Morenoff said. “It’s hard to imagine a clearer pretextual solution for the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Morenoff added that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces employment discrimination law, has long warned employers do not ask for photographs of applicants. “If needed for identification purposes,” the agency says, “a photograph may be obtained after making and accepting a job offer.”