Volume 92, Issue 29

Tuesday, October 27, 1998

purple haze


An exam that doesn't count

By Stephanie Cesca
Gazette Staff

Students wishing to be lawyers may be able to do so, even if they failed their bar admission exam.

Twenty-eight students who failed their bar admission courses were admitted to the bar at Toronto's Osgoode Hall Friday, said professor Robert Solomon, associate academic dean at the faculty of law at Western.

Harvey Strosberg, treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, however, reviewed these 28 students after they failed their admission courses, deeming them competent to practice law.

"Can competency be judged only by examination results?" asked Strosberg. "My answer is no."

"I don't know why these students have been admitted. And I don't know on what basis," Solomon said.

Bruce Welling, a law professor at Western, also questioned Strosberg's process of exempting failed students. "I want to know where someone like [Strosberg] would get that kind of authority," he said.

Typically, the failure rate for bar admission exams is very low, Solomon explained, which is why so much controversy has risen due to exempting the failed students.

"It sounds like graduating from Western law school without passing the prerequisite courses," Welling said.

Peter Barton, a law professor at Western, agreed with Strosberg. "A lot of people who fail academically end up being very successful," he said.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the examination results of the newly-licensed students, their ethnic background was an issue.

"A significant number of students who failed were visible minorities," Solomon said. "It may simply mean that certain individuals from certain backgrounds are not particularly prepared."

Strosberg did not comment on whether or not race motivated his review process.

"If somebody like [Strosberg] lumps a group of people based on race and speaks of their competency or incompetency, then that's racist," Welling said.

"The bar holds a promise of competency," Strosberg added. "That was the reason why I was part of the process."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998