Indiana Daily Student

Law school of hard knocks

WE SAY: Having learning disabilities merits equal opportunity, but not special treatment

After her first year as a law student at Southern Illinois University, Lisa Rittenhouse had a GPA of 1.948, just below the 1.95 average needed to guarantee a spot in the law school for the coming semester. She was one of six students who reapplied for admission, and the only one denied, even though she claimed to have the highest GPA of all applicants. She is now suing SIU for discrimination, claiming that her rejection was because she was white – four of those readmitted were racial minorities and because she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, type II bipolar disorder and dyslexia. \nThe issue of discrimination is complicated. On the one hand, she claims to have been the victim of discrimination, making no small mention of her ethnicity as a barrier to re-acceptance at SIU. On the other, she claims she didn’t receive enough help for her disabilities, but the law school plainly admitted it would give her no special accommodations. It seems law school admission boards just can’t win these days. Extend too much favor on the basis of diversity, and you’re a reverse-racist, but extend too little to people with disabilities, and you are backward. \nBut Rittenhouse seems to have it wrong. And to someone who no doubt struggled to make her grades, ending up two-hundreths of a point away from re-acceptance would seem a compelling reason to keep trying. But it’s not as though law school is like other institutions. It is sort of a trade school, whose end goal is to instill in its students a certain competence at understanding and working within the law. Our belief that one can achieve anything leads us to sue when we are unable to do it ourselves. Rittenhouse seems to have stumbled upon a hard truth – there are some hardships for which we cannot be compensated.\nIn grade school, extra time for testing makes sense. If one is a slow reader, the student is allowed extra time to digest the material. The idea here is to remove barriers to success that exist in the education system. Comprehension, not speed of reading, is the end goal. But law school is the real world, and no matter in which branch of law Rittenhouse aspires to work, surely she knows that neither companies nor opposing counsels will ever give extra accommodation, no matter how severe her disability.\nRittenhouse is demanding to receive treatment for her condition and that no one else be given special treatment for race. But, really, racial diversity is a strength. The idea is that different people would provide a broad resource of skills and opinions that allow us to solve problems in different ways. Sadly, ADHD and dyslexia are not strengths. They are weaknesses, and although society should not give these people any extra grief, it benefits no one to give them extra advantages. With Rittenhouse’s tenacity, surely there are other things in which she could succeed, but it seems law school is not one of them. And that is no one’s fault.

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