Attracting minorities a priority at UT Law; Aggressive recruiting keeps admissions stable

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page F1

In 1990, a group of black law students and alumni at the University of Toledo decided to turn the tables on the college of law; they graded it for a change.

On minority issues, they said, the law school was only barely above water. It eeked out a D average, they said.

If UT deserved a D, there’s little doubt what grade they would give the public law schools in California and Texas – a big red F.

Both university systems decided to end affirmative action in admission policies, and the effects have been quick and decisive. Last year, the University of California-Berkeley law school accepted 75 African-Americans to its first-year law class.

This year, that number tumbled to 14. UCLA and the University of Texas saw similar drops. Most of those who were admitted decided they’d rather spend their law school years elsewhere: All 14 Berkeley candidates turned the school down. UCLA will have fewer than 10 blacks attending, and Texas might have none.

But the University of Toledo will buck the trend this year. College of Law Dean Albert Quick said that he expects 12 African-Americans to arrive in the fall, doubling last year’s total.

“We’ve never made a stronger effort to bring in minorities than now,” Mr. Quick said.

Blacks still make up well under 10 per cent of the law school’s student body, but their increasing numbers could help UT avoid the fate of California-Berkeley, UCLA, and Texas – a homogenous classroom.

African-American attorneys and law students in Toledo almost universally called ending affirmative action a mistake. “This short-sighted, myopic view is ruining the future,” said Lafe Tolliver, a local black attorney. “It’s just bringing back the stereotypic views of old.

“I chuckle when white folks complain about affirmative action. They’ve had it for hundreds of years.”

From 1992 to 1995, the number of blacks joining each incoming class at UT Law ranged from nine to 19, numbers comparable to many other regional law schools.

But last year’s total – only six African-Americans in a class of 190 – alarmed some. That number meant blacks made up barely 3 per cent of the class of 1999. “The commitment to minority issues here seems to be quite low,” said Rory Smith, a second-year law student and one of those six. “Professors don’t expect us to be able to perform in class, and when we do, they seem surprised.”

In contrast, Ohio State University’s law school had about 25 African-Americans enter last year, more than 10 per cent of the class. Ohio Northern University’s class was about 13 per cent minority, and the University of Michigan’s law school enrolled 21 black first-year students, almost 7 per cent of the class.

The numbers were even more surprising, since last year’s UT class was the first recruited under the leadership of Mr. Quick, who had previously been dean of the law school at Ohio Northern, in Ada. There, he was recognized nationally for his work in promoting African-Americans in the legal profession. He was awarded the Medallion of Justice from the Judicial Council of the National Bar Association for his efforts, and he is a published authority on how to raise minority representation on law school campuses.

Mr. Quick said the law school recruits at historically black colleges and makes special efforts to target prospective minority students. But African-American applicants to law schools are dropping nationwide, and keeping a class multiracial is growing even more difficult.

Administrators say they try to keep law classes diverse because lawyers must be able to determine the merits of many different points of view.

“In a classroom that’s mostly male, white, or anything, you miss out on some great discussion,” said Kent Lollis, a former associate dean at Ohio Northern University’s law school.

Second-year UT law student Praveena Kaw said she was in a family law class last year when a woman said matter-of-factly, “Most American Indians are alcoholics.”

“I told her you can’t really generalize like that,” Ms. Kaw, who is South African, said. “But there’s a tendency here to let racist comments go. Being the only person of color in a class, you often don’t want to speak up.”

Some whites have had only a handful of conversations with minorities, and a diverse classroom can help bridge that gap.

“I’ve had white students come up to me after class and confide they felt uncomfortable with minority clients,” said Rick Mitchell, a black Toledo attorney who teaches part time at UT. “Whites have primarily been in predominantly white institutions, and that affects their perspectives on the world.”

“It’s important for white folks to see black people in positions of authority,” Mr. Tolliver said. “Law school is a good place to show that. Whites need black professors as much as minorities need them.”

UT’s law school currently has only one full-time minority faculty member, Professor Joan Bullock. As recently as 1990, there were none. Ms. Bullock serves on the committee in charge of appointing new faculty, and she said the university is doing all it can to recruit minority professors.

Mr. Quick said two faculty spots would be filled soon, possibly by minorities.

When Ms. Bullock was herself a UT law student in the early 1980s, there were no black faculty. “But I felt welcome,” she said. “There was more isolation, fewer opportunities to make friends, but I still felt welcome.”

Now there are organizations aimed specifically at making blacks feel welcome at the UT law school. The professional association of Toledo’s black attorneys, the Thurgood Marshall Law Association, provides mentors and financial aid to minority law students. While black law students are becoming a rarity in California and Texas, UT’s Black Law Students Association is one of the school’s largest student groups.

Getting into law school has traditionally been more of a numbers game than getting into other college programs. Most top undergraduate schools examine dozens of factors – teacher recommendations, student essays, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work, along with grades and test scores – before deciding a student’s fate. But in America’s law schools, admissions decisions are often based entirely on two numbers: a student’s grade point average and a score on the Law School Admissions Test, the standardized exam for all prospective law students.

And since standardized tests long have been accused of bias against minorities, critics say relying on LSAT scores slants the system against blacks. On average, African-Americans score 10 points lower than whites on the LSAT.

“It’s clearly biased,” Ms. Kaw said. “There’s an economic and social understanding that’s lacking between the people who [devise] the test and the minorities who take them.”

“The ways in which we learn are different,” Mr. Smith said. Minority students fare worse on multiple-choice exams, like the LSAT, than whites, he said. Ironically, most exams in law schools nationwide are essay-based.

But officials at the Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT, said the test is fair to members of all ethnic groups.

“There have been accusations against the LSAT in the past,” Mr. Lollis, now LSAC’s associate executive director, said. But test makers now make special efforts to have more minorities writing questions and examining them for bias, he said. “There is still an unmeasurable social bias, but we believe we’re doing a good job keeping the test fair.”

“The test’s job is to predict a student’s grades during his first year of classes,” Mr. Quick said. “It has done a good job of doing that.” He added that the test weeded out many students who might not be able to survive law school.

“The alternative is to bring in too many people, sit them all down, and tell them, ‘Look to your left, look to your right. One of you won’t be here next year,'” Mr. Quick said. But with the costs associated with a year of law school, he said, that alternative isn’t very attractive.

Even though he calls them useful, Mr. Lollis said colleges over-emphasize test scores in admissions decisions because they can be easily quantified, and because higher LSAT scores make schools look better to those who try to rank America’s law schools, like U.S. News and World Report magazine. “This isn’t the schools’ fault,” Mr. Lollis said. “This is the fault of U.S. News.”

Every year, the magazine publishes rankings of the country’s top colleges, law schools, medical schools, graduate schools – even hospitals and mutual funds. And every year, academics protest having their institutions reduced to a single number, arguing that trying to split hairs between number 14 and number 15 is absurd. The college rankings issue is U.S. News’ most popular each year.

“We’re definitely caught up in the rankings game in this society,” Mr. Quick said. “All schools are sensitive to U.S. News and how they rank you.” LSAT scores figure prominently in the magazine’s formula.

Mr. Quick said he knew some Ohio law firms that used the U.S. News rankings to determine which law schools to visit on recruitment trips. A low ranking could mean even a top graduate gets passed over.

Last year, 150 law school deans from across the country signed a letter asking U.S. News to stop ranking schools. “But the ironic thing is, when they get ranked highly, those same deans are the first to mention their ranking in the alumni newsletter,” Mr. Quick said.

Could affirmative action die the same death in Ohio it has in Texas and California? California has historically dealt with more racial strife than the Buckeye state, but all it took in Texas was a single lawsuit from white students who felt they had been unjustly denied admission.

Mr. Tolliver said a court here could easily echo that Texas ruling. “The courts are very conservative by nature, and could easily adopt the rulings of other courts as guidelines,” he said. He said he doubts a state court would make such a ruling, but federal jurists might. “There are a lot of federal judges appointed by Reagan and Bush who might be sympathetic [to anti-affirmative action arguments]. That would be the death knell of minorities in the law.”

Mr. Quick estimated that, without affirmative action, the UT law school would likely have only half the minority enrollment it does today. “I hope it never comes to that,” he said.

Richer cities fare better in getting grants for culture

By Joshua Benton and Sam Roe
Blade Staff Writers

Page 1

It is one of the most historic theaters in America, a key stop on the old vaudeville circuit where stars like Milton Berle brought their acts to the Middle West.

But no matter. A few years ago, the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe was near the wrecking ball.

It needed a new roof, the seats were shot, and the electrical work wasn’t up to code.

Then the Mead Corp. stepped forward with a pledge of $200,000. Soon, private donations rolled in, and the grand theater was saved.

Had Mead, the paper giant with two mills in Chillicothe, not come through, “I think the next step would have been to raze the theater,” says David Milliken, head of the Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce.

The Majestic Theatre underscores the importance of private donations to the arts. Like Toledo’s historic Valentine Theatre, the Majestic and other arts centers often live or die by donations, particularly from corporations.

And in many Ohio cities, particularly small towns or those hit hard by plant closings, these dollars are increasingly hard to come by.

“There are fewer corporations around, fewer locally owned companies,” says Reid Dulberger of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Youngstown, for example, is struggling to raise $500,000 for a home for a ballet company and a theatrical group.

Both organizations are well respected, Mr. Dulberger says, but less than $100,000 has been collected for their new home.

And state help is uncertain, he says. In fact, he says, the state system of providing matching grants for money raised locally is unfair, skewed toward rich communities.

Ohio law requires that any two dollars of state funding for an arts project be matched by one dollar raised locally, and poorer towns might have a tougher time reaching that mark.

“On the surface, the matching grant system appears to be fair and equitable,” Mr. Dulberger says. “But there is an element that the rich get richer.”

The system “does not take into account the relative affluence of a community,” he says. “An affluent community could raise 100 per cent of a project while another community may work very, very hard and not be able to make half of that.”

Ohio, he says, needs to “incorporate a sense of need, a way to quantify a relative effort” when giving money to the arts.

State Rep. Michael Verich (D., Warren) agrees.

He said it is more difficult for areas like Toledo and Youngstown to attract local matching funds for state-funded arts projects.

Mr. Verich said a petition drive in lieu of raising some private money for the local match is a good idea.

“Anything that you can do is important. A petition drive would be an innovative way to approach the local match. It’s another way to show community support,” he said.

Mr. Verich said he is not sure if a state law would be needed to use a signature drive as part of the local match for arts projects.

Still others agree that small towns or poor areas have more trouble raising money than big cities or rich suburbs.

“We have to work harder, as opposed to Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati,” says Ellen Nelson, executive director of ArtSpace/Lima, a nonprofit arts group in Lima. “It seems it is easy for them; they have resources.”

Others say small cities do not have the political clout that big cities do to bring home money for new theaters and galleries.

“If they pour any more concrete into Cleveland it will sink into the lake,” says Bob Althoff, an investment firm executive who headed the campaign to save the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe.

Matching grants like the Valentine’s must be included in the state budget and are therefore subject to backroom deals and political favors in the legislature.

“If your town has someone on a powerful committee or the speaker of the House, you’re going to do much, much better in the game,” says Marianne Cooper, executive director of Mansfield’s Richland Academy of the Arts and Sciences.

The academy will start a $4 million campaign in January to fund a new children’s science museum. It received no state funding when it asked for $3.5 million two years ago.

“There’s plenty of [state] money to go around,” Ms. Cooper says. “It all comes down to political clout. Can your politicians do a good job of convincing other politicians your project is important?”

If not, arts groups must scramble for private and corporate donations – often a daunting task.

In recent years, many Ohio cities, including Toledo, have been devastated by businesses closing, moving, or downsizing. Some cities never have bounced back from the recession of the early 1980s.

This means fewer corporate dol lars trickling down to local arts groups.

The effect on citizens is far-reaching: The trend could concentrate cultural events and institutions in larger cities, leaving smaller ones with fewer museums, theaters, and musical ensembles.

In Toledo, the issue is the historic Valentine Theatre downtown.

Theater backers – organized as the Toledo Cultural Arts Center, Inc. – must raise $5.3 million to qualify for $15 million in state money. Over the last 15 months, they have raised $4.8 million, including $2.7 million from corporations, and the state is questioning $100,000 worth of pledges that have not been signed.

Also, by next month, theater supporters must present the state with its plan to raise $1.5 million for operating expenses to cover the two-year construction period and the theater’s first year of operation.

Nationwide, corporate giving is declining as a percentage of pre-tax income. In 1986, 2 per cent of corporate income went to giving; in 1995, that was down to 1.2 per cent, according to Craig Smith, president of Corporate Citizen, a Seattle-based think tank.

But Mr. Smith says corporate wealth has risen so much during the 1990s that giving has still increased faster than inflation. According to the Journal of Philanthropy, corporate giving reached a new high in real dollars last year, when it was up 7.5 per cent.

So if the money is still out there, where is it?

Nonprofits were once able to look to a few large local corporations for funds for nearly any worthwhile project in their town. Now, some have to search for national foundations. Some rely on a few wealthy individuals. And some simply abandon large, expensive projects altogether.

“The strategies of nonprofits shouldn’t be based on trusting the largest companies in town to give money any more,” Mr. Smith says.

National corporations are still giving lots of money, but they are spreading it across the country and the world, not just in their hometowns. And that can make it harder to target donors successfully.

“When you ask for money, they say, ‘You’ll have to talk to corporate headquarters,'” says Tom Carto, president of the Richland Performing Arts Association in Mansfield. “And then headquarters won’t talk to you.”

Mr. Carto says smaller companies have had to take up the slack.

“We have a lot of midsized businesses – technical and electronic businesses – that don’t give as much individually as the big businesses,” he says. “But they’re where our growth is.”

Adds Mr. Milliken of the Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce: “The corporations are looking more closely at what they are doing, and they are reassessing the benefits and being more careful about their choices.”

Chillicothe’s Majestic Theatre was restored with help from the Mead Corp. and $200,000 from the state. It was built in the 1850s and bills itself as the oldest continuously operating theater west of the Alleghenies.

“We saved a very valuable asset,” Mr. Milliken says. “I’d call it cultural infrastructure.”

Not all towns have struggled to raise money, however.

In Springfield, the Clark County Historical Society recently decided to create a history museum. It asked county officials to enact a sales tax to fund the museum, but the officials said they would do so only if the society raised an endowment to give the museum long-term financial security.

Faced with this incentive, the society raised a $3.5-million endowment in six months – in a city of only 70,000 hit hard by industrial downturns. Their goal is $4.5 million.

Nearly all the money has come from a small group of wealthy people, not from area corporations. “It’s from a few wealthy individuals who have been philanthropists in town for 20, 30 years,” said Floyd Barmann, executive director of the Clark County Historical Society. No state money is involved.

After the money was raised, county officials kept their promise and enacted a five-mill, one-year sales tax, which will add another $5.5 million for renovation costs.

In Tiffin – a city of 19,000, about one twentieth as large as Toledo – the Ritz Theater raised $3.2 million in private money in a year and a half, in large part because of regional support.

“We get a lot of patrons from a seven-county area, and they’ve been very generous,” says Keith Miller, the theater’s community service manager.

The state has given $600,000, and the campaign has $500,000 to go. “But that last $500,000 is always the hardest,” he says.

The Ritz dates to 1928, when it was built for vaudeville circuit shows and silent movies. The 1,300-seat theater was the region’s centerpiece, with a 1,200-pound Czechoslovakian crystal chande lier and hand-painted frescoes depicting scenes from a Roman garden.

But like many small-town theaters, it fell into disrepair and closed.

Ironically enough for Toledo fund-raisers, the Ritz is scheduled to reopen Feb. 14, 1998 – Valentine’s Day.

Spark for conveyor belt starts fire that claims century-old barn

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 16

MILLBURY — A spark from a conveyor belt started a massive fire last night, bringing an over 100-year-old Allen Township barn to the ground.

The fire, at the farm of John Kelly, 29244 North Fostoria Rd., began about 6 p.m., when five workers using a 30-foot-long conveyor belt were loading straw into the barn. Suddenly, a spark flew off the machine and onto the ground.

“I saw it hit some loose straw and ran to unplug the machine,” said Jason Rhuland, 16, who was loading the straw. “But the fire just took off.”

Flames shot up the belt and into the barn, quickly igniting the straw inside.

“In five minutes, it went from nothing to flames a hundred feet in the air,” said Paul McLaughlin, a neighbor who watched the fire from across the street. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Thick gray smoke billowed skyward, and could be seen from miles around.

Within 10 minutes, fire trucks arrived to fight the flames. Units from 11 area departments and over 50 firefighters eventually joined the effort.

Two vehicles – a conversion van and a small pickup truck – were destroyed by the flames.

“We tried to drive away all the vehicles, but we couldn’t get those two out of the way,” Allen Township Fire Chief Dennis Hartman said. “Our first priority was to protect the two houses next door.”

Witnesses said a north wind was blowing the fire toward one house, but a wind shift to the east diverted the flames. One house sustained slight damage to its exterior from the billowing smoke, while the other was untouched.

Mr. Kelly could not estimate damages. “We’re just lucky no one was hurt,” he said.

He said the barn was probably over a century old.

The fire was under control within an hour, but firefighters said they would continue working for about five more hours.

The barn contained straw and several dozen chickens, most of which were killed.

“I see five or six walking around the front yard,” young Rhuland said. “I guess that’s what’s left.”