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Law Students: How Much Does Faculty Diversity Matter?

If what researchers are saying is true, law students might want to start demanding a more diverse faculty.

A study found that first-year students at a top law school were three percent less likely to get an "A" or "A-" when the class was taught by a person of the opposite sex. If the professor was a different race, the bad news for students bumped to 10 percent.

Also, this problem affected non-white female students the most.

Stereotype Threat

The point, the public administration researchers say, is that law students are affected by the role model effect and the stereotype threat -- a "phenomenon in which individuals feel anxiety or pressure to defy perceived stereotypes about their social group."

Say that again, because we're students of the law -- not public administration!

"These results provide novel evidence of the pervasiveness of role-model effects in elite settings and of the graduate-school education production function," the authors said in their study.

The study, "Stereotype Threat, Role Models and Demographic Mismatch in an Elite Professional School Setting," basically says law schools need more faculty diversity.

Good Students

Apparently, the demographic dissonance only affected "A" and "B" students. It had no affect on grades lower than a B-minus.

In any case, the study suggests that negative stereotyping exists among law school professors. And while a first-year, over-achieving law student might not be able to do much about this problem, law school administrations can by performing audits and providing current faculty with better training around the issue. 

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