DETROIT As UCLA sociology Prof. Walter Allen testified yesterday on what life is like for minority students in predominately white schools, including the University and its Law School, perhaps no one in the courtroom was listening as closely as fellow witness Chrystal James.

Nodding repeatedly at Allen”s conclusions, James, who had just testified on her experiences as one of two black student students in her class at UCLA”s law school, obviously agreed with much of Allen”s testimony before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in the University of Michigan Law School admissions trial.

In a study of the University”s Law School and its four “feeder” schools schools that send the greatest number of students to the Law School Allen concluded that there is an unhealthy racial climate present at the schools, there exists a number of institutional barriers that impede the success of minority students and that minority students and their white peers compete on an uneven academic playing field.

Furthermore, Allen said, it “came through very clearly” that the climate at the schools is characterized by white privilege and, more specifically, white male privilege.

A student in a predominantly white environment, he continued, is under extra burdens that their white peers do not have, such as being the targets of overt and covert racism.

These factors, he further explained, lead to minority students feeling inferior and isolated, resulting in lower academic achievement.

James, who received her undergraduate degree at Stanford University, testified that Proposition 209, which eliminated affirmative action in California, has had detrimental effects for minorities in the University of California system.

“Don”t let what happened in California happen here,” she said.

James said she was an excellent student until she entered law school at UCLA. But because of the covert racism she faced, such as not being called on in her classes, she said she was not able to fully become engaged in her coursework. “I felt very silenced in that classroom,” she said of her civil procedure course.

Also, she said, being constantly viewed as a race rather than a person took an enormous emotional toll on her and consequently her grades.

“Every day I have to force myself to go to school,” she said. “It”s like taking a battering every day.”

James” testimony, Allen said, “confirmed many of our findings.”

In essence, he said, minority students have two jobs: being a student and constructing a social environment for themselves. Also, minority students are under the other burden of having to act as a representative for their race or work to change other”s perceptions of race.

“We have to recognize that those are very difficult and challenging forces,” Allen said.

These forces are especially intense in law school, Allen said, when students “are much more invested in competing” against each other. Therefore, the racism becomes more prevalent, such as minority students not being invited to join study groups because they may be perceived as intellectually inferior.

For both witnesses” testimony, the Center for Individual Rights retained their standing objection, saying such testimony is irrelevant to the questions of the court.

CIR Chief Executive Officer Terry Pell said the testimony yesterday made clear that “the double standard (admissions policy) makes these problems much worse, and it”s worse because the state is doing this.”

But Miranda Massie, lead counsel for the intervening defendants, a coalition of civil rights and affirmative action advocates, continued to defend the testimony.

“It”s undeniable at this point in the trial that race and racism are fundamental in higher education,” she said.

“College GPA is not a race-neutral merit criterion for law school applicants because grades reflect profound racism, discrimination and bias some of it overt and some of it subtler but all of it destructive and corrosive.”

Outside the courtroom, James said she had mixed feelings about Allen”s testimony. “I feel great,” she said. “For a year I”d been blaming myself, and there”s actually an explanation.”

But, she continued, “I feel really bad. It”s a really big problem and it”s institutionalized.” But James also said she felt empowered by being able to tell her story as a warning against ending affirmative action.

Allen will retake the stand today to face cross-examination from CIR lawyers. The intervenors plan to continue their case with testimony from Columbia history Prof. Eric Foner and Eugene Garcia, dean of the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Education.

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