The late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has been accused of being a racist by several University of Chicago Law School graduates – because he gave them bad grades and allegedly favored conservative students.
“Scalia flunked every black student who took his classes that year. Nobody flunks courses in elite law schools. It’s unheard of,” wrote former UChicago Law student Arnim Johnson in a Facebook post.
The university said in a statement that “it was saddened by the allegations,” but could not determine if they were actually true.
Part of the reason may be due to UChicago Law’s “blind exam testing” system, which is supposed to keep a test taker’s identity secret. In order for Scalia to know who a student was, he “would have to have subverted that system in order to change black students’ scores.”
According to Johnson, Scalia’s desire to widen the gap between himself and blacks was an attempt to become the “all-American white man” and an “honorary member of the WASP elite.”
Other UChicago law students corroborated Johnson’s accusations against Scalia. In an interview for Gawker, Ben Streeter, an attorney with the Federal Election Commission and graduate of the UChicago Law School, stated that he observed Scalia’s preferential treatment of conservative white students.
According to Streeter, the final exam for Scalia’s administrative law class covered material that had not been discussed in class and that students would only have known had they spoken with Scalia outside of the classroom.
Philip Hampton, senior counsel at Haynes and Boone in Washington, D.C. and former president of BALSA, told Gawker that nearly every black student’s lowest grade was in Scalia’s class.
“I don’t think any black person got more than a C- from Scalia,” said Hampton. “Black students received Ds and Cs.”
A former student from the University of Virginia Law School claimed to have experienced similar racist treatment from Scalia.
But David Lat, founder and managing editor of Above the Law who “has personal ties” to the late justice, says any grade favoritism on Scalia’s part may have been due to agreeing with his views, not racism.
“As anyone who has attended law school can tell you, some (I’d say many) professors give better grades to students who agree with them…And we also know that African-American students at Chicago Law during the Scalia period were not a conservative group,” he said.
Lat doesn’t condone such favoritism, if indeed such was the case, “but it’s a far cry from labeling Justice Scalia […] racist.”
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