As Harvard Case Looms at Supreme Court, Study Tests Value of Diversity

According to the study, “If diverse student editors perform more than nondiverse groups, this lends credence to ideas that diverse student bodies and faculties, diverse faculty, diverse teams or attorneys, and diverse employees could generally perform better than those with the same characteristics,” it concluded.

While diversity policies for law review editors were not always uniform, they did tend to include race in their selections. Harvard College’s admissions policy, for example, does this. For example, 30 of the 48 Harvard Law Review editors are selected based on a combination of writing competitions and grades. also has 18 editors. According to the website,, they are “selected through an holistic but anonymous review that may consider “racial/ethnic identity, disability statut, gender identity and sexual orientation as well as socioeconomic status.”

The New York University Law Review also adopted a similar policy. The New York University Law Review website states that 12 student editors are “selected” by the diversity committee. These policies were subject to lawsuits. Harvard sued unnamed scholars claiming that their submissions will be “judged and interpreted by less skilled students — and these are students who will ultimately make the career-altering choice of whether an article from a professor is accepted for publication or not.”

The suits were dismissed on standing grounds, but the charge that diverse student editors are less skilled is not new. Politico reported about a “small dust-up” in the blogosphere regarding Barack Obama’s tenure as The Harvard Law Review’s first Black president. Politico reported from critics that Obama edited articles which were not cited in The Harvard Law Review for the last 20 years.

The claim was flawed in its methodology. It did little to account for the many issues Mr. Obama oversaw, and understated his role during the selection process. The general idea of assessing scholarly articles’ effect by counting their citations is accepted. Adam Chilton (a University of Chicago Law Professor) conducted the new study alongside Justin Driver, a Yale Law Professor, and Kyle Rozema at Washington University in St. Louis.

Professor Chilton stated: “On average, the citations – once you account for topic a lot — provide a fairly accurate measure of impact in the academy.” It is considered in promotions and hiring decisions. It is certainly something academics consider. All law review editors know they want their volumes to get cited. However, when selecting articles for publication, editors worry about whether the topic is broad enough to attract a wide audience.

The study considered about 13,000 research articles and found that median citations to volumes published in the five years after the adoptions of diversity programs grew by about 23 percent, which was statistically significant.

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