Tuesday, November 17, 2015

FOI lawsuit filed over UALR Law student records

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 10:24 AM

Robert Steinbuch, a faculty member at UALR's Bowen Law School has sued UALR and the law school dean, Michael Schwartz, to get student data he'd been denied after making a Freedom of Information Act request.

Steinbuch, represented by Matt Campbell, the Little Rock lawyer and Blue Hog Report blogger, said he had requested LSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, law-school GPA,race, gender, and age data for all students. He'd been given similar information in 2012 after individual names were removed. He asked for the information again in 2015, but received a response  that redacted information about ethnicity, gradepoints and LSAT scores.

Schwartz said that information wasn't included because Steinbuch had served on the law school's admission committee and

it is reasonable to assume your knowledge of the applicants, particularly applicants whose credentials are distinctive in terms of being higher or lower relative to their peers. Likewise, it is likely there are combinations of undergraduate GPA and LSAT score that would be memorably distinctive. Those issues would be exacerbated by ethnicity data, particularly because the law school admits so few students of color. It is therefore reasonably likely that, if we were to provide the redacted information, you would be able to infer identity and therefore the data is data that could reasonably be expected to lead to personally identifiable information. For similar reasons, as a professor at a small law school like Bowen that has only a very small number of students of color, the ethnicity data needed to be redacted in any event because providing even the ethnicity data alone would reasonably be expected to lead to personally identifiable information.

Steinbuch argues that there's no exemption in the law that allows the dean to make such a determination to withhold information. He also said he "could not possibly recall  a specific LSAT/GPA combination that would allow identification of specific students, as admissions committee members are not provided with
a list of admitted students that contains LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs once an admission decision is made."

Steinbuch's interest is related to his belief that there's a correlation between race and success at UALR. That is, the school accepts students with lower qualifications on account of race and that results in differences in success — graduation and passage of the bar exam.

Here's the lawsuit.

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