Administrators at the University or Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) want to enact new, likely unconstitutional affirmative action measures in the law school — and they don’t want any reporters present for the discussion.
Nic Horton, editor of the Advance Arkansas Institute’s Arkansas Project, learned that UALR Bowen School of Law Dean Michael Schwartz was hosting a meeting of law school faculty for the purpose of discussing the Legal Education Advancement Program, and decided to attend the meeting. LEAP is a pilot project targeted toward minority and economically disadvantaged applicants to law school. It would allow them to study a different curriculum and take different tests than other students pursuing the same studies.
The program, if implemented, would undoubtedly be controversial, if not unconstitutional. Dan Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute, said that LEAP would violate previous Supreme Court rulings on the matter of race-based admissions.
“I think its constitutionality is highly unlikely,” he wrote. “The Supreme Court has said that ‘a race-conscious admissions program … cannot insulate each category of applicants with certain desired qualifications from competition with all other applicants.’ It cannot ‘put members of those groups on separate admissions tracks.’”
Horton raised this point to Schwartz during a discussion after the meeting last Friday. But Schwartz defended LEAP’s constitutionality, even though he admitted UALR’s legal counsel had not studied the proposed program.
“But the [committee members] are all lawyers,” he noted.
Horton’s mere presence at the meeting caused quite a stir. Schwartz repeatedly asked him why he was there, and warned the law school faculty members that a reporter was in attendance with a recorder. He opted to vote on the LEAP proposal at a later date.
When Horton asked Schwartz when that meeting would take place, Schwartz informed him that he was not permitted to attend.
“I’m sorry, but you do not have a right to attend our faculty meetings,” wrote Schwartz in an email to Horton. “The faculty is not a governing board of the university. I allowed you to come to one meeting as a courtesy. You are not invited to the special meeting or any other meeting.”
Horton, who turned over the email to The Daily Caller, said that both Arkansas FOIA law and Bowen’s own Constitution mandated open meetings.
Horton initially commended Schwartz for speaking with him about LEAP. The dean did not seem eager, however, to endure a repeat conversation — or subject a possibly unconstitutional affirmative action scheme to further public scrutiny.
Schwartz told TheDC that since staff meetings do not count as “meetings of the governing board,” they are not subject to FOIA law. However, he said he changed his mind and will allow Horton to attend the special meeting where the LEAP vote will take place.